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Say What? Finance Headcounts Set A Record

While the overall U.S. economy lost jobs in January, securities industry employment grew by almost 5,000 jobs to post the latest in a string of record highs.

Friday's monthly U.S. payrolls report shows the securities industry (including commodity contracts and investment management) had 862,100 employees on payroll in January, compared with an upwardly revised 857,200 in December. The industry added a net 25,000 jobs during the past 12 months, a 3 percent gain. Industry headcounts have climbed in each of the last 19 months.

Friday's report incorporates annual "benchmark revisions" that added 6,300 jobs to the previously published securities industry count, while subtracting jobs from both the broad finance sector and the economy as a whole.

The report indicates that widely publicized Wall Street layoff announcements have yet to make a dent in banks' aggregate headcounts. Record payrolls leave the industry vulnerable to much bigger waves of layoffs if economic or market conditions deteriorate. Even at banks whose results held up well in the face of 2007's credit crunch, such as Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan, executives have voiced caution about their prospects for this year.

The non-seasonally adjusted figures show that monthly employment declined four times since the beginning of 2007. Still, industry employment on a non-seasonally adjusted basis set a record high in November and came in just a hair below that record in January.

Industry analysts say that in an economic cycle, employment tends to peak between six and 12 months after revenue peaks.

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