Two primary metrics for measuring the number of people who work in the mortgage industry don’t come near actual numbers — which could exceed 1 million.
Within the U.S. Department of Labor lies the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which tracks the number of employees by industry.
The most-recent BLS number for the mortgage sector was 284,000 employees as of October, not far from where it had been a year earlier.
“Real estate credit” accounted for 208,800 of the positions, while “mortgage and nonmortgage loan brokers” made up another 75,200.
However, the BLS figures refer to count by industry, and mortgage employees are classified in other industries — such as commercial banking.
“Credit unions, mortgage brokers, consumer lending are additional examples of industries that may employee a large number of loan originators,” BLS spokesman Gary E. Steinberg said in a written statement to Mortgage Daily. “These industries are separate from commercial banking.”
Another source of industry headcount is the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System, where bank and non-bank mortgage loan originators are registered.
At last count, NMLS said there were 525,207 unique mortgage loan originators registered as of the third quarter. The count included 125,572 state-registered originators and 404,385 originators in the federal registry. The total was revised down to reflect 4,750 originators who maintained both a state and federal registration.
But as noted by Marina Walsh, associate vice president industry analysis research and economics at the Mortgage Bankers Association, not all NMLS registrants aren’t mortgage originators.
“These aren’t necessarily all loan officers,” Walsh said in a telephone interview. “These could be LO assistants. These could be non-producing branch managers. They could be marketers too.”
Walsh said that an MBA Peer Group Program report on 2012 data indicated that sales employees — loan officers, account executives, producing and non-producing branch managers, LO assistants — accounted for around 19 percent of the industry on a weighted-average basis. The report reflected results from a survey of around 72 banks and independent mortgage bankers.
But when just looking at producing sales employees — loan officers, account executives and producing branch managers — the share dropped to 15 percent.
If 525,207 NMLS-registrants represented 15 percent of the mortgage industry, then mortgage banking would employ around 3.5 million people.
But Walsh suggested that many companies might be registering a staff member “who talks terms and conditions directly with the borrower” on NMLS. This would include loan fulfillment staff, underwriters and loss mitigation specialists.
Data about the number of non-originator NMLS registrants was not found.
But let’s say that a quarter of the total are not actually loan originators. That would put the estimate of total mortgage loan originators at around 394,000.
One expert speculated that around 25 percent of registered originators are not currently actively originating.
That would shrink to pool to around 295,500 active mortgage loan originators.
Using the 15 percent for producing sales employees, that would put industry employment at roughly 2 million.
Some respected sources have suggested that the total could be under 1 million.
Mortgage Daily puts the estimate at between 1 and 2 million people working in the mortgage business.