Remember when analysts were revered like rock stars and investment bankers were masters of the universe — and you sometimes wondered why you became a rep? Wonder no more.

You've still got a job while many of the highfliers of yesterday are looking for work.

Since the market tanked, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and other Wall Street firms have fired about 43,300 (mostly non-brokerage) employees, in the biggest wave of layoffs since 1974. That leaves 733,100 still working in the U.S. securities industry, according to the Department of Labor. And more layoffs of mostly non-brokerage employees could be in the works, according to lawyers and recruiters.

Morgan Stanley eliminated 3,800 jobs in the year ended in February. Recently, Credit Suisse First Boston and Goldman Sachs fired hundreds of employees, including some managing directors who make an average of $1.3 million a year. And while Merrill cut more jobs than any other securities firm (shedding 9,000 positions in the fourth quarter), its private client group remained intact. Merrill is even seeking new advisors.

Some of the recruiting, however, could come at the expense of low producers, those in the fourth and fifth quintiles, to redirect resources to the top guns.

Overall, the mood is hopeful, according to recruiters, even as the market and investment banking remain soft. “On balance there's an improved tone,” says George McGough, a partner at recruiting firm Hadley Lockwood.