Mortgage Hiring Gains Continue in March










Mortgage banking and brokerage firms added 1,900 full-time employees to their payrolls in March, thanks to this year’s unexpected pickup in both refinance and purchase lending.

Employment in the mortgage banking/broker sector rose to 284,500 in March, up from 282,600 in February, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.

It’s the second consecutive month of employment gains at nonbank mortgage firms, after a sharp drop in jobs at the beginning of the year. Industry employment is up about 4.2% from March 2014, when nonbank lenders employed 273,100 full-time workers.

And forecasts for mortgage originations bode well for additional hiring of loan officers and other mortgage professionals in the months ahead.

Economists at the Mortgage Banker Association expect a surge in mortgage originations in the second quarter. They are forecasting a 26% jump in single-family originations from the first quarter to $363 billion in second quarter.

Forecasts for home sales also are encouraging.

“New home sales have gotten off to a strong start this year and builders generally report a rising order backlog. We expect new home sales to rise 19% this year and look for a 4.3% rise in existing home sales,” according to an April 30 report by economists at Wells Fargo Securities.

Friday’s jobs report shows that homebuilders and other construction companies added 45,000 workers to their payrolls in April.

“Employment in specialty trade contractors increased by 41,000 in April, with gains about evenly split between the residential and nonresidential components. Employment declined by 8,000 in nonresidential building construction,” according to BLS commissioner Erica Groshen.

Overall, the U.S. economy created 223,000 new jobs in April and the unemployment rate was “essentially unchanged,” at 5.4%, the BLS reported. The results follow a dismal March when just 85,000 workers were hired, and March figures were revised downward from 126,000 new jobs.

“Today’s April jobs report suggests that the weak hiring in March was an aberration. The snapback in construction employment, the biggest gain since the start of 2014, supports our view that a weather-boost impact will show up in the current quarter economic growth,” Fannie Mae chief economist Doug Duncan said in a statement.

“While wage gains remain muted, reflected by the trend-like rise in average hourly earnings of little more than 2%, accelerating growth in broader measures, such as the Employment Cost Index and the continued decline in the unemployment rate, point to a tighter labor market,” Duncan added.

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