U.S. Jobs Data Mirror Wall Street Meltdown

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In the last three months, the U.S. securities industry shed a net 17,600 jobs - close to its fastest pace of decline in at least a decade.

The net loss of securities jobs from September through November was exceeded in just one other three-month period since 1998, Labor Department data show. The industry lost 18,800 jobs over the three months ended February 2002, when the U.S. was coping with both a recession and the impact of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Putting the Numbers in Perspective

As a percentage of the industry work force, employment in securities is shrinking at roughly twice the pace of U.S. employment as a whole. It's also shrinking almost twice as fast as the broad finance sector, which comprises banking and credit, insurance and real estate along with securities and investments. But because those other financial activities employ more people than securities, they are suffering larger absolute numbers of job losses.

Friday's monthly employment report showed non-farm payroll jobs in "Securities, commodity contracts, and investments" dipped by a seasonally adjusted 2,600 in November, following declines of 5,600 in October and 9,400 in September.

Those figures add up to less than 1.5 percent of the 1.26 million payroll jobs that disappeared from the U.S. economy in the last three months, and barely one in five of the 86,000 jobs shed by the broad finance sector. As a percentage of the respective employment levels, however, securities industry payrolls declined 2.04 percent in that period. That compares with a 0.91 percent decline for economy-wide payrolls, and a 1.05 percent drop for all financial-sector jobs.

By Sub-Sector

Among other major sub-sectors within finance, real estate is, not surprisingly, erasing more jobs than securities. Real estate and rental leasing shed more than 10,000 jobs in each of the past three months. And real estate job losses accelerated over the last two months, even while the decline in securities jobs slowed.

Credit intermediation and related activities (which includes commercial banking activities like lending and credit cards) shed about 15,000 jobs each during October and November, after holding steady in September.

The other big sub-sector within finance, insurance, is little changed in recent months, ending November a mere 0.3 percent below its July 2008 employment peak.

Comparisons with the Last Recession

The Labor Department data show nationwide employment in the securities industry peaked in April this year and has since declined by 23,900 jobs, or 2.8 percent. During the previous down cycle, from 2001-03, securities employment posted a peak-to-trough decline of 92,400 jobs, or 11.0 percent.

In New York City, securities payrolls have come down by 20,400 jobs, or 10.6 percent, since peaking in August 2007. During the last down cycle, New York securities employment shrank by 41,300, or 20.6 percent.

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