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NEWS from the Office of the New York State Comptroller
Contact: Press Office 518-474-4015

DiNapoli: Wall St. First Half Profits Jumped

Best Start in a Decade, But Uncertainties Obscure Second Half

October 25, 2019

Pretax profits in the securities industry reached $15.1 billion in the first six months of 2019, an 11 percent increase over the same period last year, and the best start in a decade, but a slowdown in the global economy and other factors pose threats to second half profits, according to State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli’s annual report on Wall St.’s performance.

“Wall Street had a very profitable start in 2019, but uncertainties leave the second half of the year an open question,” DiNapoli said. “Volatile markets, global trade tensions, and political turbulence have sown economic anxiety and slowed global economic growth. My office will continue to keep a close eye on the securities industry as the year progresses, because what happens on Wall Street directly impacts the New York State and New York City economies.”

Industry performance is traditionally measured by the pretax profits of the broker/dealer operations of New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) member firms. There are now about 120 member firms, down from more than 200 before the financial crisis.

While net revenue rose in the first half of 2019, growth slowed to 2.4 percent. The slowdown reportedly reflected poor performance across a range of activities including equities, commodities and currencies. The securities industry also held down the growth in expenses in the first half, which contributed to profitability.

Slower global economic growth, combined with trade tensions and political uncertainties, are casting a shadow over Wall St.’s second half and leave 2019’s year-end profits a guessing game. Although the securities industry has not yet reported on the third quarter, the nation’s largest bank-holding companies reported mixed results.

The average salary, including bonuses, for industry employees in New York City was $398,600 in 2018, a decline of 5.6 percent compared to 2017, but still five times more than the $79,800 average for the rest of the private sector in the city. Although that pay gap is slightly narrower than in 2007, when the securities industry paid six times the rest of the city’s private sector, it is still much wider than it was in 1981 when industry salaries were two times higher. Overall, the securities industry accounted for 20 percent of all private sector wages paid in New York City in 2018, even though its 181,300 jobs comprised less than 5 percent of private sector jobs in the city.

Employment in the securities industry in New York City has increased in four of the past five years, but remains 4 percent (7,600 jobs) smaller than it was in 2007. In addition, job gains in the early part of 2019 have been erased in recent months. As of September 2019, the industry was on pace to lose almost 500 jobs in 2019. Last year, the industry added 4,700 jobs.

In 2018, there were 201,200 securities industry jobs statewide in New York, more than any other state in the nation. California was second with 96,100 jobs. New York City accounted for 90 percent of the state’s securities industry jobs.

The average bonus for workers in New York City’s securities industry was $153,700 in 2018, a 17 percent drop from the year before. Although profitability increased significantly in the first half of 2019, the amount set aside for compensation, including bonuses, declined by almost 1 percent compared to the same period in 2018. Bonuses for 2019 will likely be dictated by second-half revenues.

New York City’s budget assumes a 5 percent increase in industry bonuses, while the State assumes a smaller increase in the larger finance and insurance sector. Comptroller DiNapoli will release his office’s 2019 bonus estimate for New York City industry employees in March 2020.

  • In 2018, pretax profits in the industry reached $27.3 billion, which was the most since 2010 and the third straight year of profit growth.
  • Pretax profits totaled $15.1 billion in the first half of 2019, nearly 11 percent higher than one year earlier and the best first half since 2009. It was the highest level since 2010 after adjusting for inflation.
  • Net revenue (gross revenue less interest expenses, the preferred industry measure) slowed to 2.4 percent in the first half of 2019, compared with 6.3 percent for all of 2018.
  • The securities industry accounted for 17 percent of New York City’s economy in 2018, according to the NYC Office of Management and Budget. Although other sectors have added more jobs since the end of the recession, no other industry plays a larger role in the city’s economy.
  • In 2017, immigrants made up nearly one-third of industry employees in New York City, a slightly higher share than in 2007.
  • 24 percent of securities industry employees in New York City were paid more than $250,000 in 2017, compared to 2.6 percent in the rest of the city’s workforce.
  • 60 percent of the employees in the city’s securities industry live in the city, with the largest commuter group (23 percent) coming from New Jersey, based on 2017 data.
  • Two-thirds of industry employees were White, 19 percent were Asian, 8 percent were Hispanic and 6 percent were African American in 2017. Men comprised two-thirds of industry workers.
  • In Manhattan, where 98 percent of the city’s securities jobs are located, the average salary was $403,400 in 2018, compared to an industry average of $122,000 in the outer boroughs.
  • The securities industry was responsible for 6 percent ($3.7 billion) of city tax collections in city fiscal year 2019.
  • The securities industry was responsible for 17 percent ($13.2 billion) of State tax collections in State Fiscal Year 2018-2019.
  • OSC estimates that 1 in 10 jobs in New York City and 1 in 15 jobs in New York State are associated with the securities industry. OSC also estimates that each job gained or lost in the industry leads to the creation or loss of three additional jobs in other industries in the State.

The full report is available online at