A rather shocking graphic from Mike Mandel seems to indicated that finance isn't suffering much during this recession:

financialjobs.png

At closer examination, though, I'm not sure how much that means. It's not very surprising that commercial banking has lost very few jobs; it wasn't the kind of boomtown that, say structured finance was.  And the "Finance and insurance" category includes Goldman Sachs--but also the millions who labor as claims adjusters and call center operators and actuaries in the insurance industry.  Insurance, unlike structured finance, is labor intensive:  it pays a lot of people a little money, instead of a few people a lot.  And it's a highly regulated business without the wild swings in either demand or profitability that you see in Wall Street business lines.  Given those facts, the bulk of that "finance and insurance" line probably consists of mostly the latter.

That isn't to say that financial workers aren't surviving surprisingly well, given the carnage some of its employees managed--just that it's hard to say one way or another using that data.

Update:  I see Felix Salmon had similar thoughts

So what's my theory? If you look at the chart, it turns out that the job losses in finance are put into two buckets. There's "commercial banking", on the one hand, which has had very small job losses: people have just as many checking accounts and bank loans as they always did. And then there's "finance and insurance", which is what we generally think of as Wall Street, but which also includes the enormous number of employees in the insurance industry. And just like commercial banking, the insurance industry is pretty steady, and is going to have seen very few job losses indeed. What's more, it's probably bigger, in terms of total headcount, than the investment-banking industry.

So assume that insurance has seen even fewer job losses than commercial banking, and that it accounts for most of the jobs in "finance and insurance" -- in that case, the job losses on Wall Street alone could be very large indeed to get to that final 7.3% figure.

Before reading too much into these numbers, then, I'd like to see a bit more disaggregation. It might be true that Wall Street hasn't seen condign punishment in terms of job losses. But on the other hand, it might not.




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