Wall Street is Hiring: Should We Be Happy?

by Vault Careers | July 12, 2010

"Wall Street Hiring in Anticipation of an Economic Recovery." So ran the headline of an upbeat piece in yesterday's New York Times—an article that heralded the creation of almost 2,000 jobs at New York securities firms "[s]ince employment bottomed out in February [...] a trend that is also playing out nationwide at financial companies, commodity contract traders and investment firms."

"I think we're seeing some hiring in anticipation of better times," said one source in the article, adding that "there is a sense that the economy has bottomed out and is slowly improving."

Which is all well and good: the financial sector got us into the recession, so the fact that it's looking like leading the way out of it has to be a positive sign, right?

Except that one day later the same newspaper points out the impending loss of some 700,000 jobs as the Census collection process winds down. Sources in that piece strike a markedly different tone, with a regional Census director noting that "Typically, at this point in the process, we’re losing a lot of people because they’re taking jobs […] I wish we had that problem now."

Compared side by side, the two articles serve as a reminder of the sharp contrast between an "elite" career choice and life in the "real" economy. While the finance industry piece notes "salary packages recalling the boom years are reappearing at the most senior levels"—that's seven-figure take-homes, in case you were wondering—the soon to be ex-Census workers are fretting over how to replace between $12.25 and $23 an hour.

And let's not forget the numbers involved: some 225,000 people have been let go by the Census in the last few weeks. That's more than were employed in the entire New York Securities industry at its peak (188,900 in January 2008). Even at its trough, that section of the industry had only dipped to 158,500.

Of course, it's easy to point to giant salaries and the seemingly cosseted lifestyle that those on Wall Street live as an example of where we've gone wrong—especially in contrast to those at the other end of the economic ladder. And doubtless the industry will have its defenders, and those who feel that those employed in it deserve what they're taking home.

And sure, the Times can point out that each securities job in NY creates two more positions in the city. And we can certainly celebrate the return of finance industry hiring as a likely indicator of a brighter future for the economy in general. We all know about the problems frozen credit markets caused and a lack of lending caused, after all—and no one has a desire to return to the bad old days of panic.

But while welcoming the resurgence of the industry, it's difficult to imagine that we've taken sufficient steps to ensure that its recent abuses and missteps can never happen again. It's even harder to escape the feeling that we haven't seen enough in the way justice and retribution for those who had nothing to do with the crisis and yet continue to find themselves affected by it.

Whether you agree or not, I'd love to hear your opinions on this subject. Leave a comment below, or submit one via Twitter.

--Posted by Phil Stott, Vault.com

Filed Under: Job Search


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