5 Years After Lehman: Wall Street Employment in 5 Charts


Source: James Lee.

This September marked the fifth anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers -- an event causing thousands to lose their jobs.

In addition to the anniversary of the meltdown, September has been met with Citigroup announcing it would be laying off 1,000 employees in its mortgage division, Bank of America confirming it would be cutting 2,100 jobs in its mortgage unit, and Wells Fargo adding 1,800 job cuts to the 2,300 it announced in August.

All of these cuts were attributable to the projected slowdown in mortgage originations, particularly those used to refinance homes as rates rise.

The number of jobs in the financial sector grew by 20% from 1996 to 2006, compared to just 12% growth of total jobs in the U.S. as the economy boomed. The Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2007 projected that we would see 9.6 million people employed in the financial activities sector by 2016. Yet as we have watched the market collapse around us, they now project there to only be 8.4 million jobs in the financial sector by 2020, an almost identical number to what we had in 2006.

The dramatic rise and fall of those employed in the financial sector is seen below:

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While the financial sector has recovered from the employment lows seen in 2011, it still remains below the employment in 2003. This is radically different from the picture of the U.S. economy:

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Surprisingly, while the broader financial sector is below its 2003 employment, the same isn't true of those employed in real estate:

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics.

As a matter of fact, the hardest-hit group is savings institutions, where employment has fallen by more than 25% over the past 10 years:

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The five largest banks by employees in the U.S. as of the most recent quarter are broken out as follows:



Wells Fargo




Bank of America


JPMorgan Chase


U.S. Bancorp*


Source: Company SEC filings.
*As of 12/31/12.

The biggest banks haven't been immune to this trend, and while it isn't quite fair to compare their employment since 2003, or even post-Lehman as a result of the acquisitions, we can see how their employment has changed since the end of 2009:

Source: Company SEC filings.

Certainly in all of this we see the financial sector is improving from the depths of 2010 and 2011, but in all of this, there is still a long way to go before we can truly consider it a recovery.

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