"Corporate profits are eating the economy," Derek Thompson wrote yesterday. And indeed, it seems they are. Company earnings are reaching new highs as a share of GDP. Wages are falling to new lows. And the stock market is surging.
It's not just that corporations are taking a bigger bite out of the country's wealth, though. It's the banks in particular. And that's an important part of understanding why workers are falling behind, while shareholders are pulling ahead.
Thirty years ago, the financial sector claimed around a tenth of U.S. corporate profits. Today, it's almost 30 percent. As a result, it's supplanted manufacturing as the biggest profit center in the economy, a transformation I've graphed out below. The red line is manufacturing. The blue line is the finance sector chowing down like Pac Man on corporate America's bottom line.
Wall Street's haul peaked in the early 2000s at around 40 percent of all corporate profits. And while it fell hard during the financial crisis, finance has since recovered to its dotcom boom share.
Now here's how all this relates to jobs. In the midcentury economy, when manufacturing was raking in 40 to 50 percent of corporate profits, it was also responsible for a around 20 to 30 percent of all employment. Finance, on the other hand, has never been responsible for more than 5 percent (as shown below).