By John Carney, Senior Editor, CNBC.com NEW YORK ( CNBC) -- Although it seems like a tough week for Wall Street paychecks, partners at Goldman Sachs ( GS) are probably not fretting. Sure, Goldman cut its overall accrual for employee pay and benefits in the first quarter by 16%. But the amount of compensation per partner appears to have declined by far less--just about two-thirds of 1%, by my calculation. Goldman set aside $4.4 billion for benefits and compensation in the first quarter of 2012, a 16% decline from last year's $5.23 billion first-quarter compensation figure.
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In last year's first quarter, total compensation divided by partner equaled close to $10.83 million. This year, the compensation per partner is roughly $10.76 million for the first quarter. That means that comp per partner decreased by just 0.64%. Of course, only a fraction of that number will actually go to compensate partners. The compensation accrual includes salaries, benefits and severance packages for employees let go during the quarter. Partners generally take around 15 percent of the total compensation, according to a 2005 New York magazine article by Duff McDonald. If that holds up, Goldman has set aside $660 million for partner compensation, or around $1.6 million per partner. The fact that the compensation per partner has held more or less level might be an indication of the strength of Goldman's partnership. The number of partners--rather than the total number of employees--seems to drive overall compensation. Dramatic declines in overall compensation probably reflect partners departing rather than less money being set aside for each partner at the firm. Pay at Goldman may be shrinking--but that's because the partnership is shrinking. The partners at Goldman will still do well this year. Goldman declined to comment for this story. --Written by John Carney at CNBC