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Oct 19, 2009 1:45 pm


An irreverent Wall Street Blog
by Bill Singer

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Wall Street's Employment Outlook with Stuart Rosenthal, Rosenthal Recruiting.

Written: October 19, 2009



2009 Year in Review:

The Wall Street Employment Scene from a Recruiter's Perspective

Stuart Rosenthal of Rosenthal Recruiting

Interviewed by Bill Singer

Bill Singer: To say that 2009 was a difficult year for job candidates on Wall Street would be a classic understatement. From your perspective as an industry regulatory/compliance veteran and recruiter, how bad did things actually get?

Stuart Rosenthal: Things slowed abruptly in mid-March 2008 after Bear Stearns was sold to J.P. Morgan. It's hard to believe that it's been nearly a year and a half since that event, but that was a day when things truly came to a screeching halt. Remember that Bear had some 15,000 employees when the sale was announced, and keep in mind that it took nearly two months to finalize that transaction (which, in the interim, went from a proposed purchase price of $2 to the final deal at $10 a share). Then, just as the market was digesting that fiasco, we got hit harder when Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy in September 2008. That impacted about 25,000 employees. Frankly, at that point, we hit the wall -- hiring stopped. It was as bad as I've seen in my two decades on the Street. Firms were not hiring, but were looking to cut even more jobs, and there were virtually no plans (short, mid, or long-term) for hiring. It was dismal.

Singer: Do you think we've seen the worst?

Rosenthal: Although things have improved since the Bear and Lehman crises, I don't think we will ever return to the staffing levels of the last bull market, at least, not for this generation. I think that we have seen the worst on the employment scene from the Great Recession, but we are still adjusting to the new world order.

The New York Times recently reported some 216,000 domestic jobs vanished in August 2009, but those losses were somewhat more moderate than the worst numbers of the year. Most economists see recent improvements as the result of moving away from the low point of last fall. Earlier this year we were hemorrhaging nearly 700,000 jobs a month, but that has slowed. However, "improvements" and slowing down are not the same as vigorous growth.

The Wall Street Journal just released an economists' survey showing that, on average, the unemployment rate is not expected to recover to under 6% until 2013. That's another four years of substantial unemployment, and keep in mind that many economists still don't think that the current rate has peaked; they are pointing to February 2009 as the possible high water mark.