Wall Street Bonuses: Still Sky-High

Wall Street bonuses dipped a bit last year, but a new Institute for Policy Studies report puts the bonus figures in perspective by comparing the Wall Street payout to low-wage workers’ earnings.

According to new figures from the New York State Comptroller, Wall Street banks handed out $25 billion in bonuses to their 172,400 New York City-based employees last year. That amounts to double the combined earnings of all 895,000 Americans who work full-time at the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

The average Wall Street bonus did decline last year, by 9 percent. But the 2015 bonus average of $146,200 still stood 4 percent higher than the average in 2009, the last time Congress increased the federal minimum wage.

For Wall Street employees, annual bonuses come as an extra reward on top of their base salaries, which averaged $404,800 in 2014. Top Wall Street executives can also receive, on top of salary and bonus, massive stock option and restricted stock grants.

Wall Street bonuses in 2015 were double the earnings of all full-time minimum wage workers

Wall Street bonuses have now doubled the combined earnings of America’s full-time minimum wage workers for two years in a row. The overall bonus pool total did drop in 2015. But so did the number of full-time minimum wage workers. According to the most recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, 895,000 people were working full-time at the minimum wage in 2014, down from 1,007,000 in 2013.

This dropoff in the number of people working at just the minimum wage reflects the increasing effectiveness of living wage campaigns in many states and cities. Yet 42 percent of American workers still earn less than $15 per hour, the wage level needed to cover basic living costs in most areas of the country, according to the National Employment Law Project.

The Wall Street bonus pool has become so large that in 2015 it would’ve been enough to have lifted all of America’s 2.6 million fast food prep and serving workers up to $15 per hour — and still have had $4 billion left over. Or that bonus pool could have raised…

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