Most working-class Americans are still struggling with stagnant wages. However, bonuses on Wall Street last year were spectacular.

In its analysis of bonuses awarded to bankers in 2017, the Wall Street Journal found that last year’s bonuses were at their highest level recorded in percentage terms since 2013. A total of $31.7 billion in bonuses were awarded to Wall Street professionals in the securities industry last year, marking a 17 percent increase from 2016 levels.

The average bonus on Wall Street was $184,220, according to the Journal. In comparison to the rest of America, median income in the United States was $56,516 in 2015, meaning the average 2017 Wall Street bonus — which is compensation in addition to an already outsized salary — was more than three times what the average American made in 2015. However big last year’s average bonuses were, they still fall slightly short of the all-time high of $191,360 in 2006. Data from the Federal Reserve shows that bonuses have dramatically increased over a 30-year period, while the New York state minimum wage has remained mostly stagnant.

Increase over time of Wall Street bonuses vs. New York minimum wage (Chart by MarketWatch)

Even though the securities industry is making money hand over fist, profits have not been shared with workers. Data from the St. Louis Fed and the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that ever since the fourth quarter of 2008, when the recession began to take hold, workers’ wages — when compared to the growth of corporate profits — have remained at an all-time low since the first quarter of 1947.

Workers’ share of corporate profits, 1947 to present (Data by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, chart by St. Louis Fed)

The disparity between how much workers are getting compared to how profitable today’s corporations are is particularly astounding given the performance of the stock market. Even though fears of a trade war triggered a drop in stock prices, and news cycles can occasionally prompt selloffs, the stock market has steadily climbed to all-time high after all-time high. On April 5, 2013, for example, the Dow Jones closed at 14,565.25. The Dow closed at 24,202.60 on March 26, 2018.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average as of March 26, 2018

In addition to large bonuses, the Wall Street Journal reported that top bankers received significant boosts in overall compensation last year. Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat received roughly $23 million in 2017 — a 48 percent jump from 2016. JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon did even better, with $29.5 million in total compensation.


Carl Gibson is co-publisher of Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.

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