Law Shucks

Ed. note: Above the Law has teamed up with Law Shucks, which has done excellent work translating all of the layoff news into user-friendly charts and graphs: the Layoff Tracker.

In February, unemployment rose in 27 states and declined in just six. We already knew the unemployment rate was steady at 9.7%, but as we’ve said any number of times, that number is a far cry from the calculation of what most people would really consider unemployment. Its value is really just in indicating the trends.

Most relevant to our readers, New York was steady at 8.8% and California at 12.5%. Or pick your own states, in this nifty WSJ tool.

The unemployment numbers may not give much cause for optimism, but excitement abounds that the S&P 500 had its fourth-straight weekly winning session – the longest such streak since August – and that is being viewed as a possible indicator that the recession is ending.

“Investors are realizing that the U.S. expansion is quite solid,” said David Kelly, who helps oversee $445 billion as chief market strategist for JPMorgan Funds in New York. “It will probably pick up pace rather than slow down from here. That’s the main thing behind this stock rally.”

If that doesn’t convince you, maybe the return of helicopter commuting will.

Law firms aren’t the only place where pay is being cut; overall US personal income from wages, dividends, rent, retirement plans and government benefits declined 1.7% last year, unadjusted for inflation.

The rest of the week’s law-firm news, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “This Week in Layoffs: 03.28.10″

Ed. note: Above the Law has teamed up with Law Shucks, which has done excellent work translating all of the layoff news into user-friendly charts and graphs: the Layoff Tracker.

The jobs picture, at least the sliver reflected by the initial jobless claims numbers, remained stagnant this week. Initial claims decreased for the third straight week, but the decrease was less than predicted (of course).

Not only are claims at a level higher than at the end of 2009, they’re just muddling along at about the same level we hit in November. Since most of us work in major metropolitan areas, news that those were hardest hit isn’t particularly welcome, either.

The lack of job creation isn’t really affecting the markets, though. Over the same three-week period, the S&P 500 has had three straight weekly gains. Although that’s due in no small part to the Fed keeping the discount rate near zero. Things should get interesting when the housing-market support expires, unemployment benefits get extended, and the US-China trade tiff heats up.

But law firms have circled the wagons and are focused inward as they try to sort through the effects on the sector.

Their efforts after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Last Week in Layoffs: 03.22.10″

pink slip layoff notice Above the Law blog.jpgEd. note: Above the Law has teamed up with Law Shucks, which has done excellent work translating all of the layoff news into user-friendly charts and graphs: the Layoff Tracker.

National jobless news seems to be business as usual. First-time jobless claims fell by 6,000 last week to 462,000.

That contributed to a net gain of 37,000, to 4.56 million people included in the "continuing claims" total. Above those receiving regular benefits, there are also 5.69 million people receiving extended benefits, an increase of about 175,000 for the week.

That becomes particularly relevant, because the Senate voted 62-36 to extend benefits (both unemployment insurance and health-insurance premium subsidies) through the end of the year. Traditionally, benefits lasted up to 26 weeks; under the new law, some people will receive up to 99 weeks’ benefits. Republicans made noise about adding $140 billion to the $12.5 trillion deficit, but were pretty much powerless to stop it.

Layoff news in the law-firm sector was not nearly so good this week. Details after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “This Week in Layoffs: 03.14.10″


pink slip layoff notice Above the Law blog.jpgEd. note: Above the Law has teamed up with Law Shucks, which has done excellent work translating all of the layoff news into user-friendly charts and graphs: the Layoff Tracker.
First-time jobless claims dropped last week, and the overall unemployment rate (U-3) held steady at 9.7% in February.
But you won’t call that "good news" if you know what’s good for you.
Ross Todd at the American Lawyer spared us some typing:

The news for the legal services sector is one of the more hopeful signs of late. Only 100 jobs were lost in the legal sector in February, the second month in a row that has seen a substantial drop-off in job losses. According to seasonally adjusted BLS data, the legal sector lost 1,100 jobs in January compared to 2,100 in December, 2,900 in November, and 5,800 in October. Since February of last year, the sector has shed 37,100 positions.

Coincidentally, that lines up very closely with the 110 jobs we reported lost from major law firms in "The Month in Layoffs" for February. (BLS reports net numbers, we’re just tallying layoffs at major firms).
But layoffs aren’t firms’ only costcutting measure, and in fact they seem to be falling out of favor quickly. After the jump, what the firms have been up to this week.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “This Week in Layoffs: 03.07.10″

pink slip layoff notice Above the Law blog.jpgEd. note: Above the Law has teamed up with Law Shucks, which has done excellent work translating all of the layoff news into user-friendly charts and graphs: the Layoff Tracker.
How many times have we heard this before?

The number of Americans filing first-time claims for unemployment insurance unexpectedly increased last week, a sign that the economic recovery will be uneven as the labor market struggles to rebound.
Initial jobless applications rose by 22,000 to 496,000 in the week ended Feb. 20, the highest level in three months, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The total number of people receiving unemployment insurance gained and the four- week moving average of weekly claims jumped close to a three- month high.

At least it’s not just the employment sector that’s reporting bad news.

In the last week alone, reports on new and existing home sales, jobless claims, durable goods orders, consumer confidence and manufacturing have all missed expectations. Worries about a Greek debt default spreading to other vulnerable European nations have resurfaced — after quieting for a few weeks.

On the other hand, fourth-quarter earnings were spectacular compared to year-ago numbers. The financial sector, which spins off so much legal work, dragged overall earnings up 201% compared to last year – even without that segment, earnings were up 16%. It’s not clear yet whether strengthening corporate financials will be able to recover over the drag of economic data.
Meanwhile, it was all quiet on the law-firm front this week. Details after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “This Week in Layoffs: 02.28.10″

pink slip layoff notice Above the Law blog.jpgEd. note: Above the Law has teamed up with Law Shucks, which has done excellent work translating all of the layoff news into user-friendly charts and graphs: the Layoff Tracker.
Here we are, a year after enactment of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and still facing unemployment in the 10% range. That anniversary has brought to the fore once again debate over whether the stimulus bill has worked. President Obama is in the difficult position of trying to prove that things would have been worse had they not acted.
Those who have studied logic will recognize that as the fallacy of argumentum ad ignorantiam – i.e., the plan must have worked simply because no one has proven that the economy would be worse otherwise.
Those who watch late-night television will just call it "truthiness" and move on. Some of just know with our hearts.
The Washington Post puts the results somewhere in the middle:

Nevertheless, at its core, the president’s argument is correct. Over the past year, the act has provided $119 billion in tax relief to households and firms; $147 billion in aid to states, unemployment benefits, food stamps and the like; and $31 billion for roads, energy efficiency and other projects. You cannot inject $300 billion — an amount equal to about 2 percent of U.S. gross domestic product — into the economy without stimulating some short-run economic activity that would not have occurred otherwise.

Trying to show how many jobs were "saved or created" is a waste of time, they say; some must have been, contrary to Republican claims that "not one net job" has been created.
On the other hand, there’s plenty of room for criticizing the efficiency of the government’s actions.
And that’s what we’ve been saying about law firms’ behavior for a long time now. Their most-recent fiscal behavior, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “This Week in Layoffs: 02.21.10″

pink slip layoff notice Above the Law blog.jpgEd. note: Above the Law has teamed up with Law Shucks, which has done excellent work translating all of the layoff news into user-friendly charts and graphs: the Layoff Tracker.
In celebration of this law-firm-layoff-free week, we’re taking a break from reporting on the US government’s published unemployment numbers.
We found something far more interesting and relevant: a report on unemployment among the affluent [PDF]. Serendipitously, “affluent” coincides with Biglaw starting salaries – this study uses $150,000 annual income as the cutoff for the top decile.
Notwithstanding the more than 5,641 lawyers laid off over the past two years, the affluent are doing much better than the general population on the unemployment front as well, according to the report, which we found on the Wall Street Journal’s Wealth Report.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “This Week in Layoffs: 02.13.10″

pink slip layoff notice Above the Law blog.jpgEd. note: Above the Law has teamed up with Law Shucks, which has done excellent work translating all of the layoff news into user-friendly charts and graphs: the Layoff Tracker.
Regular readers of this column are well aware by now that the overall unemployment rate isn’t a particularly good indicator, but it’s the most-commonly discussed number so we use it. The predictions are always wrong, and the rate grossly undercounts the number of people any reasonable person would define as unemployed. But for all its problems, it’s not entirely useless to show trends.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

The unemployment rate fell from 10.0 to 9.7 percent in January, and nonfarm payroll employment was essentially unchanged (-20,000), the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.

That’s what we’ve been harping on all along. Overall unemployment didn’t improve because of a flood of people going back to work; it improved because so many people fell out of the BLS’s definition. We remain frustrated by any definition of unemployment that doesn’t include people who got frustrated and gave up looking or whose unemployment had outlasted their benefits.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “This Week in Layoffs: 02.07.10″

pink slip layoff notice Above the Law blog.jpgEd. note: Above the Law has teamed up with Law Shucks, which has done excellent work translating all of the layoff news into user-friendly charts and graphs: the Layoff Tracker.
We’re coming down to the wire on the Law Shucks Lateral Tracker launch promotion iPhone 3GS giveaway. Read the announcement and the rules, then get those submissions in by midnight January 31 for your chance to win the phone or the other prizes.

Initial jobless claims dropped slightly last week, to 470,000, which was slightly better than the previous week, but once again not in line with the expected 450,000. That actually caused the four-week moving average of initial claims to increase slightly, which isn’t usually a good sign.

But there may now be cause for guarded optimism. The US economy grew by 5.7% in the fourth quarter, the fastest pace in six years. That spending was in infrastructure, not directly in jobs, but it could presage increased staffing. President Obama is hoping to spur that along with a one-year, $33 billion tax credit for small-business new hires and a payroll-tax reduction.

On the whole, though, the week in law-firm economic news was relatively good. Details after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “This Week in Layoffs: 01.30.10″

pink slip layoff notice Above the Law blog.jpgEd. note: Above the Law has teamed up with Law Shucks, which has done excellent work translating all of the layoff news into user-friendly charts and graphs: the Layoff Tracker.
Unemployment rose again last month, climbing higher in 43 states, which is particularly surprising when compared to the 36 states that reported improved numbers in November. Once again, it might have been worse, but for the curious ways in which the unemployment rate is calculated:

In another nationwide trend, long-suffering states like California and Michigan saw their jobless rates stabilize even as they continued to bleed jobs. That’s because thousands of frustrated workers gave up hunting for work and dropped out of the labor force, which means they aren’t included in the unemployment rate.

Contrary to common sense, the unemployment rate isn’t calculated based on the total number of people who don’t have jobs, so people becoming so frustrated they quit looking actually improves the number (even though they’re certainly telling their friends they’re unemployed because, you know, they don’t have jobs).

Overall, 85,000 jobs were lost in December (compared to a 4,000 job increase in November) – but 600,000 people left the labor force in the same period. So the numbers are even worse than the record levels they’re currently reaching. For example, New York’s unemployment rate is nine percent, a 26-year high, and New Jersey’s 10.1% is a 33-year high.

The trend isn’t looking much better lately, either. First-time jobless claims rose 36,000 to 482,000 last week, once again surprising economists, who had a consensus estimate of a slight decrease (although this week’s numbers might be slightly off due to estimating necessary as a result of the Martin Luther King holiday). That marks the first time the four-week rolling average has increased in 19 weeks.

But that’s the big picture. After the jump, the goings on in the legal sector.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “This Week in Layoffs: 01.23.10″

Page 3 of 71234567