Mortgage companies have added at least 3,000 full-time employees to their payrolls since September — to keep up with refinancings — but held off on hiring in December, according to new government figures released Friday morning.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that mortgage firms employed 265,300 full timers at Dec. 31, almost flat from November.
But year-over-year mortgage banking/brokerage employment fell 5.4% in 2011.
Meanwhile, BLS reported that the overall economy created 243,000 new jobs in January, up from 203,000 the month prior.
The payroll numbers include 21,000 construction workers, following a gain of 31,000 in November. Other government reports show increased spending for multifamily and single-family residential construction. Analysts attribute unusually warm weather for some of the increase in construction activity.
Friday’s report also shows the national unemployment rate fell to 8.3% in January from 8.5% in December. (The mortgage job figures lag the national numbers by one month.)
Fannie Mae chief economist Doug Duncan said in a statement that the strengthening employment picture “added to a broad spectrum of other indicators, showing that the healing in the job market is gaining traction.”
He added: “This provides encouragement that the improving trend in consumer confidence will continue and will at some point be reflected in a firming trend in consumer spending.”
Fannie’s ‘National Housing Survey,’ slated for release next week, is expected to show that consumer sentiment has continued to improve.