Securities Firm Headcounts Climbing?

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Securities industry employment in New York City bounced strongly in September, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says in a report issued Tuesday. However, the reported pickup apparently stems from a statistical adjustment that isn't performed on similar data covering states and cities published each month by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Citing a strong profit recovery by Wall Street, the comptroller's report forecasts job losses in the securities industry in New York City "are unlikely to exceed 35,000," from the peak to the eventual trough. The industry has lost 28,300 jobs since peaking in November 2007. That includes the month of September, when DiNapoli says a net 3,600 jobs were added - the biggest monthly gain since 2002, according to The Wall Street Journal.

To be sure, anecdotal reports widely indicate that financial institutions have been doing more hiring since mid-year, while the pace of layoffs has slowed. Still, there's little sign thus far of the sort of hiring boom that could spawn thousands of jobs in the city in a single month.

What's interesting about that 3,600 September jobs gain is the entire increase is due to seasonal adjustment. The most recent U.S. nonfarm payrolls release, which applies seasonal adjustment factors to nationwide employment numbers but not local ones, shows New York City securities industry jobs totaled 161,200 in September, down slightly from 161,300 in August. (Nationwide, the securities industry lost a seasonally adjusted 1,100 jobs in September but then gained 500 jobs in October, the first monthly uptick in more than a year.)

"While the pace of Wall Street job losses has slowed considerably, the industry is not yet adding jobs on a sustained basis," the comptroller's report states. "The national economy is slowly improving, but Wall Street has recovered much faster than anyone had envisioned."

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