Nonbank Mortgage Companies Keep Hiring More Workers

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Nondepository mortgage lenders and brokers added 3,000 full-time employees to their payrolls in October after hiring 2,400 in September.

This marks the fifth straight month of solid demand for loan officers, underwriters, processors and other back office employees.

Total employment in the nonbank mortgage lender and broker sector hit 318,200 in October, up from 299,000 in January, the Bureau of Labor of Statistics reported Friday. It’s the highest level of nonbank mortgage employment since March 2008, but comes at a time when forecasters are expecting a significant drop in refinancing activity.

The industry has finally adjusted to the TILA-RESPA integrated disclosure regulations and the government-sponsored enterprises are turning their attention from foreclosure prevention to focus on homeownership, according to Danny Gardner, vice president of single-family affordable housing at Freddie Mac.

“We are starting to see the first-homebuyers re-engage,” Gardner said at a Consumer Federation of America conference in Washington Thursday.

In the second quarter, 42% of Freddie Mac’s non-refinance purchase volume was for loans made to first-time homebuyers. He noted that 700 lenders are now offering a 3% down payment product that Freddie introduced a year and a half ago.

“The industry is starting to come to a more stable state and we will start to see some improvement in the ability to open up credit,” Gardner said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. economy created 178,000 jobs in November and the unemployment rate fell to 4.6% from 4.9% in the prior month, the BLS reported. It is the lowest unemployment rate since August 2007.

Bank of the West chief economist Scott Anderson said the “unexpected drop in the U.S. unemployment rate nearly assures a quarter-point rate hike at the December FOMC meeting on December 14.”

However, the “unemployment rate now appears to be somewhat below the natural rate of unemployment for the United States, which could aggravate labor shortages in some sectors and lead to stronger earnings growth and perhaps higher consumer price inflation,” Anderson said in a note Friday morning.

The BLS revised last month’s report down to 142,000 jobs in October. It originally reported that 161,000 were created in October. There is a one-month lag in BLS reporting of mortgage industry jobs data.

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