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Mortgage Employment Could Turn Higher

October employment 343,000

December 5, 2008

By MortgageDaily.com staff


The number of people working in the mortgage industry fell according to the latest government data. But a recent surge in mortgage activity will likely push employment higher by next month.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics today reported mortgage employment of 343,400 during October. The sector was down from a revised 351,800 in September and a revised 378,500 in October 2007.

People working in "real estate credit" accounted for 233,100 jobs, down from 238,400 in September. "Mortgage and nonmortgage loan brokers" totaled 110,300 during October, down from 113,400 positions.

October activity included 2,000 cuts planned at Residential Capital LLC between October and December; 500 job losses when CitiMortgage sharply cut back on its mortgage broker operations; and 306 layoffs at a Washington Mutual Inc. servicing facility in Chatsworth, Calif. Another 260 positions were eliminated as a result of E-LOAN Inc.'s announcement that it plans to end operations; 220 Georgia jobs were lost as a result of GreenPoint Mortgage's move to outsource servicing; and 200 jobs were lost when Downey Savings and Loan Association shut down its wholesale operations.

Other employment losses in the real estate finance sector included 170 employees who were out of a job when Chase Wholesale Lending closed four regional centers; 165 Wachovia Corp. employees who were terminated in Florida; and 160 residential lending support and operations positions eliminated by BankUnited Financial Corp.

Another report from the bureau, a division of the U.S. Department of Labor, indicated overall U.S. unemployment reached 6.682 percent during November, rising from 6.502 percent in October.

Overall nonfarm payroll employment dropped by 533,000 in November. Some projections had the drop at 300,000. Job losses were large and widespread across major industry sectors.

A 154.6 million civilian labor force in November included 144.3 million employed persons and 10.3 million unemployed people. The prior month's civilian labor force was 155.0 million, including 145.0 million employed and 10.1 million unemployed.

As mortgage rates have tumbled lately -- the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has fallen to 5.53 percent as of Wednesday from 6.63 percent on July 24 according to Freddie Mac's weekly survey -- refinance activity has surged. In the Mortgage Bankers Association's latest weekly survey, refinances shot up 203 percent from the prior week.

The jump in mortgage activity could push mortgage employment higher next year beginning in January -- though lenders will likely turn to temporary contract arrangements first. Mortgage employment data for January will be reported during March.


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