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Wall Street Is Back and It’s Bigger than Ever

April 7, 2017, 6:06 PM UTC

Donald Trump may not be celebrating March’s disappointing jobs report. But at least one U.S. industry is thriving under his presidency—and it’s one Trump most certainly did not have in mind when he promised to create more jobs.

The American finance industry that calls Wall Street home is now larger than ever before, even surpassing its highs before the financial crisis, according to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The number of people working on Wall Street and in financial jobs across the country exceeded 8.4 million for the first time in March, the BLS reported Friday.

It’s another sign that more than six years after the 2008 market crash that sent American banks into a tailspin, Wall Street has not only fully recovered, but it is stronger than ever. Until this year, the U.S. financial industry remained smaller than at its peak in 2007, when it had 8.39 million employees, as a risky lending boom and rising stock market expanded the ranks of banks along with their bottom lines.

But while banks had shrunk their head counts in the wake of the Great Recession, with costly regulations and slimmer profits leading to layoffs, the financial industry has been bulking up again lately, propelled in part by rising interest rates that have lifted earnings.

In fact, since November when President Trump’s election, the financial sector has added some 67,000 jobs—the most jobs the industry has added during the same five-month period since 1998.

Yet boosting the banking industry has likely been an unintended consequence for President Trump, whose campaign pledges to put Americans back to work focused on creating blue-collar manufacturing jobs, not white-collar Wall Street ones. The commander-in-chief often criticized Wall Street for its ties to then-Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, while on the campaign trail. One of Trump’s favorite slogans at the time was “Drain the Swamp”—a kind of catch-all phrase that also encompassed Washington’s ties to Wall Street.

Since Trump was elected President, however, he has added multiple Goldman Sachs (GS) alumni to his circle of advisors. The seeming contradiction has led some of his former supporters to turn against him, saying Trump has instead deepened his ties to Wall Street, an accusation the President has largely shrugged off.

But the jump in the finance sector’s employment figures is worth noting not only because the Wall Street’s size is at an all-time high, but also because it contributed 9% of last month’s total job gains. The finance industry grew by some 9,000 jobs in March while retailers shed 29,000, resulting in a total of 98,000 jobs added in the month.

Still, the growth in financial jobs is not necessarily good news for the American economy, as it is likely to exacerbate the wealth gap, a problem also known as income inequality. While workers in the retail industry earned between $10.07 to $12.99, on average, in 2016, those in the finance and insurance industry earned at least 30% more, with average wages between $13.09 to $35.07, according to BLS data.