Wall Street & Its Unemployed

I felt like I was playing a game of musical chairs where someone’s taken out half the chairs.
— David Roberts on searching for a Wall Street job

The above quote pretty much sums up the employment situation for financial workers in America—and probably Britain. A lot of financial jobs have dissapeared, likely forever, and the unemployed are fighting over the few remaining ones. The situation is similar to what technology workers faced after the dot-com bust.

Bloomberg Markets magazine has a profile of two couples who have lost their high-paying jobs and are struggling to find another job. The striking thing is how many of the Wall Street workers are highly paid—far more than I or 50% of Americans or Canadians would ever make in our life—and yet seem to be headed for financial difficulties. Ironically, I feel that someone who is closer to working class or middle class, and hence has a lower income, would probably handle their situation better than many of these Wall Street workers. One of the problems is that many high-paying workers are "stuck" in a higher-end lifestyle and have problems adjusting their lifestyles downward. I think David Robert's family is probably doing the right thing by moving elsewhere, which will be cheaper and will inject some fresh life.

In early 2008, David Roberts’s morning routine at the Ridgewood, New Jersey, train station was as unchanged as the view from its platform, which overlooks a downtown anchored by the Daily Treat diner and a 77-year-old movie theater. Roberts would sip coffee, eat a corn muffin, scan the Financial Times and step aboard the 7:50 train.

This was not the same trip he had made for the 14 years he worked for three Wall Street firms. This was a commute to nowhere.

Roberts, 61, was bound for an outplacement center on New York’s East 37th Street, where he pursued job leads and the dream of starting a consulting firm with former colleagues. Like many of his neighbors in Ridgewood, Roberts had been thrown out of work after the credit markets seized up last year, joining thousands of commuters in the competition for jobs that don’t exist anymore.

Roberts, an economist at Dominion Bond Rating Service until January 2008, was fired 13 months after he predicted in a published report the recession that would end his livelihood.

“You can see a train wreck coming,” Roberts says. “But that doesn’t mean you can get out of the way.”

Roberts has suffered through a chain of unanswered job applications, an ill-fated relocation to Washington, and depression. As of April, he had lost or spent more than half of his $1.4 million in savings.


Former Lloyds banker Matthew Tuck is still shaving--and still looking for work in banking. Since he was let go in September, he has applied for more than a dozen jobs and is a regular member of the Financial Executives Networking Group. He was one of 400 applicants for a post at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. It paid about $85,000, half his Lloyds base salary and two-thirds of his pay when he arrived in New York in 1995 with Barclays.


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