Wall Street bonuses fall over $30K despite profit upturn

By CHRIS CAROLAFeaturesAssociated Press

The average bonus paid to Wall Street traders dipped by more than $30,000 despite a jump of 11 percent in securities industry profits, according to a report released Tuesday by the comptroller for New York state.

Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's annual estimate of the average bonus paid to security industry employees found that bonuses fell 17 percent last year, from $184,400 in 2017 to $153,700.

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The annual accounting by the state comptroller's office of Wall Street bonuses paid out from December through March serves as an indicator of how the financial services industry is doing. It also gives New York City and state tax collectors an idea of how much to expect from taxes on the billions of dollars in bonuses Wall Street brokerage firms pay employees.

Profits for broker-dealer operations of New York Stock Exchange member firms totaled $27.3 billion in 2018, up from $24.5 billion in 2017, the report said, despite end-of-the-year volatility in the stock markets.

"Profits grew in 2018 and have nearly doubled since 2015," DiNapoli said. "Bonuses declined in 2018, but the average bonus was still double the average annual salary in the rest of the city's workforce."

Last March, DiNapoli reported that profits soared for a second consecutive year in 2017, pushing the average bonus paid in 2018 to $184,400. Last year's average bonus grew by 18 percent over the previous year partly because of changes in the federal tax code that encouraged Wall Street brokerage firms to move up 2018's bonus payments to December 2017, DiNapoli said. The tax overhaul took effect in January 2018.

Another factor in a lower average bonus for 2018 was the addition of 4,700 jobs in the city's securities industry, meaning the bonus pool was shared by a larger number of employees, DiNapoli said. Securities industry jobs topped 181,000 last year, he said.

The report said the average salary, including bonuses, for employees in the city's securities industry was $422,500 in 2017, the latest year annual data are available. That's more than five times higher than the average salary in the rest of New York City's private sector, DiNapoli said.

"It's great work if you can get it, but there aren't as many opportunities" on Wall Street as there were before the financial crisis of 2007, when employment in the securities industry approached 190,000 jobs, DiNapoli said.