Mortgage lenders added 7,300 full-time employees to their payrolls in February -- the biggest one-month increase since March 2004, according to an employment report released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on April 1.The March BLS report shows that jobs in the mortgage banking/broker sector rose from 490,300 in January to 497,600 in February. (There is a one-month lag in BLS reporting of mortgage sector employment data. The March data will not be released until May 6.) The slow but steady increases in hiring by lenders and brokers over the past year is surprising considering mortgage originations declined in 2004 by almost 29% and originations are expected to decline by another 10% to 20% this year. At the same time, residential construction remains strong and April 1st's employment report shows builders' hiring of construction workers rose by 26,000 in March. Over the past two-years, construction jobs have increased by 489,000 and residential construction accounts for 70% of those jobs. Overall, the U.S. economy generated 110,000 jobs in March and the unemployment rate declined to 5.2%

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