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Wall Street profits — and bonuses — rose in 2016

Pedestrians walk along Wall Street in front of the New York Stock Exchange.
Michael Nagle | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Pedestrians walk along Wall Street in front of the New York Stock Exchange.

Profits on Wall Street rose last year for the first time since 2012, and financial firms cut larger bonus checks on average, according to a new report from the New York State Comptroller's Office.

The rebound is good news for New York City, where the financial industry accounts for one-fifth of private sector wages and supports nearly 1 in 10 jobs directly or indirectly, according to the comptroller's estimate.

The broker-dealer operations at New York Stock Exchange member firms booked $17.3 billion in profits in 2016, the comptroller reported, using a standard measure of industry profitability. That marked a 21 percent jump from 2015 profits and the first increase in four years.

Average bonus rises

The average bonus the Street paid out to workers last year was $138,210, with the total pool reaching $23.9 billion. That also broke a two-year streak of declines, though it was up only slightly from 2015.

The estimate is based on bonuses paid out between December and March and does not include compensation for employees located outside the city.

New York City financial sector employment remains 6 percent below levels before the financial crisis, but Wall Street has been increasing its head count steadily since 2014. Banks and other firms added 3,800 positions last year, pushing total employment to 177,000, the highest level since 2008.

The comptroller's office credited cost reductions and lower expenses not related to compensation for the Wall Street results.

"Wall Street profits bounced back strongly in 2016. Lower costs more than made up for the continued decline in revenues," New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said in a statement.

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