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Wall Street bonuses surged for 2017

Goldman CEO on income inequality dangers
Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein on income inequality dangers 01:59

Wall Streeters are still getting rich: The average bonus paid to securities industry employees in 2017 came to $184,220, up 17 percent from the year before, according to an estimate by the New York State Comptroller.

Bonuses were fueled by a surge in profits. Pretax profits for New York Stock Exchange member firms grew 42 percent last year, to $24.5 billion, a seven-year high. 

Wall Street accounted for less than 5 percent of private-sector jobs in New York last year, but those workers  -- who number about 176,000 -- took home more than 20 percent of all private-sector wages in the city, the report found.

The average salary -- including bonuses -- in New York's securities industry came to $375,000 in 2016, the last annual data available, and was five times higher than the $74,800 average yearly pay for the rest of the city's private-sector workers. 

"When I woke up this morning, it was a bit stunning to see this 17 percent increase," said Sarah Anderson, Global Economy Project Director at the left-leaning Institute for Policy Studies. "It's more worrisome seeing these numbers going to folks on Wall Street — it's a sign that we didn't learn that much from the financial crisis."

The IPS advocates for curbing executive pay for financial traders, arguing that it leads to risky behavior of the type that triggered the 2008 financial crisis. 

The securities industry employs 6 percent fewer people than it did before the financial crisis of 2008, while employment in the rest of New York City's private sector has grown by 23 percent.

"The large increase in profitability over the past two years demonstrates that the industry can prosper with the regulations and consumer protections adopted after the financial crisis," said New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli in a statement. "It is too soon to tell how increased volatility in the financial markets might impact profits in 2018."

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