On September 1, 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its employment projections for the next cycle, 2019-2029.
For 2019, the BLS’s Employment Projections program (EP program) estimates that there were 813,900 lawyer positions (as opposed to discrete lawyers) in the United States. This figure includes self-employed attorneys. In 2019, the EP program found 823,900 lawyer positions, a small decline from last year. According to the BLS’s Current Population Survey (CPS), in 2019, 1.24 million people worked as lawyers in the United States. The discrepancy between the CPS and the EP program has existed for some time. In their respective contexts, both figures are correct.
The BLS projects future employment trends in part to help job seekers evaluate career choices, and the projections play an outsized role in the BLS’s Occupational Outlook Handbook. Here is an illustration from various sources that converts the flows of law-school graduates and new lawyers into stocks that can be compared to BLS employment measures since the 1980s.
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