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Wall Street bonuses jump 17% to precrisis levels

  • Bonuses for 2017 likely got a boost from tax law changes that will eliminate the corporate deduction for performance-based pay starting in 2018.
  • Wall Street accounted for fewer than 5 percent of local jobs but 20 percent of private sector wages in New York City, the report says.
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Spencer Platt | Getty Images news | Getty Images

The annual bonus for the average Wall Street worker is back to heights not seen since before the financial crisis, though the industry has shrunk in size since then.

For last year, the average bonus jumped 17 percent, to an estimated $184,220, the most since 2006, according to data released by the New York state comptroller Monday. The total Wall Street bonus pool was $31.4 billion.

The comptroller's annual report said bonuses for 2017 likely got a boost from tax law changes that will eliminate the corporate deduction for performance-based pay starting in 2018. The change encouraged firms to move up payments to December 2017.

Profits from the broker-dealer operations of NYSE member firms (which is what it uses to measure the securities industry's health) rose 42 percent, to $24.5 billion, the most since 2010.

That was the year new financial regulations came into play, clamping down on banks' ability to trade for themselves and forcing them to set aside more capital. But during the last year especially, there has been a concerted effort in Washington to cut back some of these new regulations, with the Senate passing a bank regulatory relief bill earlier this month.

In New York, the size of Wall Street's bonus pool is a particular fascination for many given how it ripples through the local economy, from spending on real estate and travel to, restaurants, entertainment, luxury cars, jewelry and fashion.

"When Wall Street does well, the city and state benefit from higher tax revenues," Thomas DiNapoli, the state comptroller, said in a statement. "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."

Wall Street accounted for less than 5 percent of local jobs but 20 percent of private sector wages in the city, the report said. Wall Street had 176,500 workers last year, down from 188,400 in 2008.

The report is based on personal income tax trends and includes cash bonuses for the current year and those deferred from prior years that were cashed in. It doesn't include stock options or bonuses paid to employees located outside New York City.