(Bloomberg) - Goldman Sachs Group Inc. set aside $4.34 billion to pay employees in the first quarter, about 1 percent less than a year earlier, as the firm employed 400 fewer people.

The compensation expense was equal 43 percent of revenue, down from 44 percent in the first quarter of 2012, the New York- based company said today in a statement. The sum, which covers salaries, benefits and accruals for year-end bonuses, is enough to give each of the bank’s 32,000 employees $135,594 for the first three months of the year.

Wall Street firms including Goldman Sachs, the fifth- biggest U.S. bank by assets, are cutting costs and jobs to improve shareholder returns. The company, led by Chief Executive Officer Lloyd C. Blankfein, 58, has trimmed compensation expenses by more than a third in the five years through 2012, while revenue fell 26 percent.

The stock climbed 41 percent last year, showing that shareholders were “relatively happy” with the firm’s compensation decisions in 2012, President Gary Cohn said in a Bloomberg Television interview in January.

“You’ll never get it perfect, but I think we got it right,” said Cohn, 52. “Relative to the competitive landscape that we operate in, our people got paid relatively fairly, relative to the contribution they made to the firm and to our share price.”

Compensation at New York-based JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s corporate and investment bank fell 7 percent to $3.4 billion in the first quarter, amounting to about 34 percent of revenue, according to figures posted on the lender’s website last week.

Wall Street firms typically set aside a portion of revenue throughout the year for bonuses, enabling companies to adjust pay in line with performance. Average pay is derived by dividing total compensation and benefits by the number of employees and doesn’t represent what workers actually receive.

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