Wall Street's Turmoil Creeps Into Boston

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While firms in the Boston area are proving resilient in the face of market turmoil, unfortunately for job seekers, they're not entirely immune.

The future of the Merrill Lynch operations in the area is uncertain once the firm is acquired by Bank of America. State Street Corp. is under pressure, as indicated by a plummeting share price. And Fidelity Investments says parents are saving less money for college because of the economic slowdown - a trend that directly impacts its businesses.

So far, the Boston area has been able to avoid the massive layoffs seen on Wall Street because its financial firms are focused on areas such as money management and private equity, which are less volatile than investment banking. New England also retains appeal for people who either grew up in the region or attended college there.

A Flood of Refugees From Wall Street

However, competition for jobs is ratcheting up as refugees from Wall Street expand their job search beyond the New York area. The Boston-area economy has held up reasonably well, making it even more attractive to people looking for work. Unemployment rates in New England were 5.7 percent in August, below the national average of 6.1 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Recruiters in Boston say they're getting flooded with resumes. Experts predict the area's financial services industry will remain strong, even if doesn't enjoy the robust growth seen in years past.

"Boston is a money management center," says Martin Duffy of the Peruses Group in Boston, who follows the regional economy. "Most of the money management here is on a fee basis ...We are not looking at significant job losses that will be occurring because of this turmoil in the markets."

Demand Varies By Sector

Still, Boston firms are being picky in their hiring. People who want to relocate to the region should volunteer to pay their own moving expenses to keep them competitive with local candidates, according to recruiters. Mostly, recruiters advise candidates to have patience - lots of it.

"Companies are still hiring, but they are much more selective about the candidates they are bringing on board," says Jim Langan, partner for the investment and financial services division for Winter, Wyman Cos. in Boston. "At this point, they are picking those positions that are a priority."

For instance, demand remains strong for mid-level positions in areas such as investment operations, with annual salaries between $40,000 and $80,000, according to Langan. "It's in areas above that where we see the slowdown," he observes. "There definitely is a slowdown in trading and hedge fund positions."

Plenty of jobs are available for senior executives in industries such as IT, health care and consumer products, says Les Gore, managing partner at Newton, Mass.-based Executive Search International. It's a different story for people looking for financial services jobs.

"We receive upwards of 1,000 resumes per week, so many of those are from people in financial services organizations," says Gore. "People who are in a revenue-generating role are probably more secure" than people working in staff or overhead roles.

Gore, who survived both the dot-com bust and the economic slowdown during the early 1980s, says many job candidates are growing frustrated with the turmoil in financial services. "A lot of them are soured on the industry," he reports. "They are saying the hell with it."

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