NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- During times of market uncertainty, stocks of profitable companies with high dividend yields are often cited as defensive plays.

This could be one of those times, with the Dow Jones Industrial AverageI:DJI down 7% year-to-date through Tuesday's close, while the S&P 500I:GSPC was down 6%.

Bank stocks have been hard as well, with the KBW Bank Index (I:BKX) has given up 5.4% this year, including Monday's decline of 2.7%. That's not such a large decline, but it follows increases of 35% in 2013 and 30% in 2012. Meanwhile, the KBW Regional Bank Index (KRX) was down 3.8% on Tuesday for a year-to-date decline of 9% during 2014, following a 44% increase during 2013.

The broad indices were all up Tuesday morning, as were most bank stocks, as the market rebounded a bit from a very painful Monday session.  Looking ahead, investors could be in for a rough ride later this week, because Automated Data Processing will release its employment report on Thursday, followed by the Department of Labor's official employment on Friday, which will include the national unemployment rate.

The unemployment rate declined to 6.7% in December from 7.0% in November, however, the market reaction was mixed when that was announced on Jan. 10, because the U.S. economy added only 74,000 nonfarm jobs during December, which was way short of the 192,000 expected opn average by economists polled by Thomson Reuters.  Another negative factor in the December employment report was that the improved unemployment rate was driven in part by a 0.2% decline in the labor participation rate to 62.8%.  The labor participation rate declined 0.8% during 2013, with a large number of people effectively been driven from the labor force.

With investors so skittish about economic reports over the past week, there may be more riding on the Friday employment report than usual.

But many regional banks continue to seek their prospects improve as the economy continues to grow, and the heavy pullback in stock prices may have created good entry points for investors who may have thought they had missed out on the long-term recovery of large-cap banks and small and mid-cap banks.

The articles linked to in the previous paragraph are primarily long-term growth plays.  Some investors looking for income and commitments for several years might consider common shares of banks paying dividends of over 4%, since these yields compare to well to other income-producing investments in the current low interest rate environment.  Of course, there's also an element of risk for larger banks with relatively high dividend payout ratios.

Using data provided by Thomson Reuters Bank Insight, we have put together a list of five actively traded bank stocks -- with average daily trading volume of at least 20,000 shares -- with the highest dividend yields, based on regulator quarterly dividend payments.  Here they are, by ascending dividend yield, based on Monday's closing prices:

  • Oritani Financial (ORIT) - Get Report of the Township of Washington, N.J.  The shares closed at $15.74 Monday, with a yield of 4.45%, based on a quarterly dividend of 17.5 cents a share.  During 2013, Oritani Financial earned 92 cents a share, for a dividend payout ratio of 76%, based on the regular quarterly payout rate.  Oritani's shares trade for 16.7 times the consensus 2015 earnings estimate of 94 cents a share, among analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.
  • Valley National Bancorp (VLY) - Get Report of Wayne, N.J. The shares closed at $9.69 Monday, with a dividend yield of 4.54% based on a quarterly payout of 11 cents a share.  The company earned 63 cents a share during 2013, for a dividend payout ratio of 70%, based on the current payout rate.  The stock trades for 15.4 times the consensus 2015 EPS estimate, which is also 63 cents.
  • Peoples United Financial (PBCT) - Get Report of Bridgeport, Conn.  The shares closed at $14.21 Monday, with a dividend yield of 4.57%, based on a regulatory quarterly payout of 16.25 cents.  PBCT earned 74 cents a a share during 2013, for a dividend payout ratio of 88%, based on the regulatory quarterly payout rate.  The shares trade for 14.6 times the consensus 2015 EPS estimate of 97 cents.
  • Park National Corp. (PRK) - Get Report of Newark, Ohio. The shares closed at $78.30 Monday, with a yield of 4.80%, based on a regular quarterly dividend of 94 cents.  The company earned $5.01 a share during 2013, for a payout ratio of 75%, based on the current dividend rate.  The shares trade for 15.1 times the consensus 2015 EPS estimate of $5.19.
  • New York Community Bancorp (NYCB) - Get Report of Westbury, N.Y. The shares closed at $16.19 Monday, with a dividend yield of 6.18%, based on a quarterly payout of 25 cents.  The company earned $1.08 a share during 2013, for a dividend payout ratio of 93%.  That is, of course, a high dividend payout ratio, but this has been the case for New York Community for many years, and the company has maintained the dividend for 40 consecutive quarters.  The stock trades for 14.7 times the consensus 2015 EPS estimate of $1.10.  The stock last week was downgraded to a "market perform" rating from "outperform" by KBW analyst Collyn Gilbert, because the shares had risen to be close to her price target.  The analyst wrote in a client note on Jan. 29 that the dividend was "the best source of investor return for NYCB shares," as investors wait for the company to find an acquisition candidate to help it grow its earnings.

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Philip W. van Doorn is a member of TheStreet's banking and finance team, commenting on industry and regulatory trends. He previously served as the senior analyst for Ratings, responsible for assigning financial strength ratings to banks and savings and loan institutions. Mr. van Doorn previously served as a loan operations officer at Riverside National Bank in Fort Pierce, Fla., and as a credit analyst at the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, where he monitored banks in New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico. Mr. van Doorn has additional experience in the mutual fund and computer software industries. He holds a bachelor of science in business administration from Long Island University.