Wall Street Bonuses Fall But Base Compensation Climbs

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Banks have been posting huge profits, but bonuses are shrinking — a little bit, anyway.

The average Wall Street employee drew a bonus of $129,000 in 2010, down nine percent from the previous year, according to a report from New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

"While cash bonuses are down, it is not an indication that Wall Street is weakened," DiNapoli said. "In fact, it is simply recognition of the change in compensation practices following the financial meltdown."

DiNapoli said that because of regulatory reforms, Wall Street firms are paying their employees more in the form of higher base salaries and stock options.

And when considering these factors, employees who work in New York's financial industry are making more. DiNapoli said total compensation grew about six percent from 2009 to 2010. 

Wall Street experienced its second most profitable year in 2010, earning $27.6 billion, according to the report. The industry's most profitable year on record was 2009, with $61.4 billion in profits. The rapid rebound after big losses suffered in 2008, DiNapoli said, happened in large part because of the infusion of federal bailout money and an environment of low interest rates.