Uncertainty Clouds Wall Street Hiring

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Staffing levels at U.S. investment banks have surpassed their previous peak, which came when the dot-com boom was roaring along. Despite such strong numbers, nagging fears continue that clouds are drifting closer to Wall Street.

Financial News reports that investment banks have hired nearly 100,000 people - 97,300, to be precise - since October 2003. In June alone, they added 10,000 staffers, raising the industry's headcount to 848,300 - more than 8,000 above than the previous high of 840,900, reached in March 2001. The newspaper cited a report published by the Securities Industry and Financial Management Association.

The current recruitment drive "has coincided with a period of record profits for investment banks but, with the crisis in U.S. sub-prime mortgages causing banks to pull funds out of big leveraged buyouts, there are fears the market may have peaked," Financial News wrote. "Some banks have slowed their recruitment for the rest of the year and there have been reports that several have frozen all but essential recruitment."

Indeed, the European head of one international search firm told eFinancialCareers in London that "it's going to get fairly hairy out there." Another said Goldman Sachs, for one, is putting expansion on hold after "overhiring" analysts and associates. Goldman hasn't commented.

Still, despite falling global stock markets, rising interest rates and concerns over credit risks, any chill may prove temporary: "I don't see a blanket shutdown (in recruitment) for the rest of the year, says the international search executive. "People will decide they're done for the summer and reassess in September and October."

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