No one is talking about key data that has always been readily available that should create suspicion about law school employment figures. That data is each school's bar passage rate. I graduated from a law school with a 76% first-time passage rate and a 99% employment rate within 9 months of graduation. This data tells me that it is highly unlikely that much more than 76% of the graduating class enjoys full-time permanent employment in a job as a lawyer. Sure, some non-passers may be at firms that are willing to keep them on for another try. On the other hand, an equal number, if not more, of those first-time passers likely went on pursue an LLM.
While more transparency is needed with respect to job and salary information, I don't think it was ever reasonable to believe that a higher percentage of law school graduates secured permanent, full time employment as lawyers than passed the bar exam on the first try.
For a striking demonstration of this point, check out the remarkable differences between the nine-month employment rates and the bar passage rates in this table (Note that the employment rates here are slightly higher than those published by USNWR in the relevant years, because they were the "raw" numbers reported by schools, before they were adjusted by USNWR, by treating the employment rate among graduates for which schools reported no data as 25%. Also, while it's true that it's possible for a law school grad to have a job with a legal employer without being licensed, few legal employers will tolerate that situation for long).
A related point is that the NALP data on how many graduates had full-time jobs as lawyers nine months after graduation (note this stat includes temporary as well as permanent positions, so it's a generously broad definition of what's a real legal job) has over the last decade consistently hovered around 65% to 70%. While it's true this data is aggregated, i..e, it's still not available to prospective students on an individual school basis, you don't need to be a math major to figure out that if USNWR has been reporting nine-month "employment" rates of over 95% for the vast majority of schools in the top 100, and even quite a few in the third tier, something about these numbers has never added up. (In the 2010 USNWR rankings, that is, well after the recession had gotten rolling, 73% of first and second-tier schools reported a nine-month employment rate of 95% or higher, and the lowest reported rate among these 100 schools was 89.5%).
So in a sense, it should have been easy for prospective law students, over the past decade, to figure out that the employment numbers being touted by law schools were essentially fake. All they needed to do was to go into the process of researching law schools without making any prior assumption that anything law schools -- or the ABA Guide, or USNWR, or the Princeton Review, etc. etc. -- said about law school employment stats was actually true. In other words, ironically enough, they just needed to be thinking like (good) lawyers.