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Right now is a lucrative time to be a banker. Profits at US banks rose almost 20% in 2012, to a post financial-crisis high of $141.3 billion*. The securities industry, while still unable to match its record-setting 2009 profits, is also doing well, earning $23.9 billion last year, up from $7.7 billion in 2011.
Despite America’s persistently high unemployment and tepid growth, its financial employees are doing well. New York State’s Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, in his annual report on the state’s financial industry, reports that securities firms increased cash bonuses 8% to $20 billion in this bonus cycle. As the WSJ's Brett Philbin notes, that’s down 42% from the lofty levels of 2006 -- but it still comes to more than $122,000 per banker. What’s more, the comptroller's annual estimate is conservative: it fails to capture many types of deferred pay. For instance, $6.3 million of Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat’s $11.5 million 2012 pay is deferred.
Not only have America’s bankers had a good year, they've had an excellent two decades. As the Atlantic Wire's Philip Bump points out, the "last time bankers took home bonuses that were less than the median household income was 1991".
All is only well, as Susanne Craig points out, if you’re still employed. The financial industry continues to cut jobs: Goldman Sachs will go slightly beyond its annual routine of firing the bottom 5% of its workforce, and JP Morgan announced today that it will cut 19,000 jobs, primarily in its mortgage arm and its retail Chase branches. Those employees' jobs and pay levels tend to be more Duluth than Darien. -- Ben Walsh