Mortgage broker payrolls top 100,000 per month, marking a 10-year high

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Mortgage broker job estimates released Friday suggest hiring of third-party originators in the wholesale loan channel has risen above 100,000 for the first time in at least 10 years.

There were 102,200 mortgage and non-mortgage loan brokers on payrolls in September, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest monthly report on these numbers. That’s up from a downwardly revised 99,500 in August. The previous August estimate was 99,700.

Broker numbers are up markedly over September 2019 levels, when there were 87,900 on payrolls.

The broker estimates, which are considered mostly reflective of the mortgage sector, add to indications that some home lenders have been leaning harder on the wholesale channel to address capacity issues amid an origination boom.

“The channel is growing. Brokers offer the consumer more choices, and the wholesale channel offers more options to lenders,” said Kimber White, president of the National Association of Mortgage Brokers, who estimated that these third-party originators likely have at least a 20% share by now. The BLS payroll estimates are closer to 30% but may be inflated by the inclusion of nonmortgage brokers. Last year, CoreLogic estimated wholesale share was closer to 15%.

The broker share hasn’t been this high since it peaked during the housing bubble, when it was less regulated. Lenders have said it’s a different business now.

“Compared to the practices of 20 years ago, which I didn’t care for all that much, I think the mortgage broker practices today are fantastic,” said Bill Cosgrove, owner, president and CEO of Union Home Mortgage and the former chairman of the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Specifically, increased regulation of the channel and advances in automation since the Great Recession have improved the wholesale business, said Garth Graham, a senior partner at industry consultancy Stratmor Group. He also pegged the current broker share at 20%.

“Originators are licensed, and we have a lot more focus on counterparty risk technology,” he said.

Nonbank mortgage broker and lender jobs overall are at a 10-year high, topping the previous record for the decade set in August.

In September, nonbank mortgage jobs rose to 341,100 from an upwardly revised 332,900 the previous month, and from 305,100 in September a year ago. The original estimate for August 2020 was 333,100.

Thanks to low rates, mortgages have been a bright spot in a weaker overall job market that has been slowly recovering as it has adjusted to operating amid a pandemic with the help of government stimulus. That stimulus is expiring and a contested election raises questions about its future.

Overall employment numbers, which are reported with less of a lag that nonbank mortgage estimates, show 638,000 jobs were added in the United States in October. In comparison, an upwardly revised 672 jobs were added in September and 185,000 jobs were added in October of last year. September’s job estimate was originally 661,000.

Unemployment, fell to 6.9% in October from 7.9% in September, but it’s still elevated compared to 3.6% in October a year ago. Unemployment numbers include a misclassification error that has been in effect since March and may be higher than reported by 0.3 percentage point or less. There was a possible understatement of unemployment by 0.4 percentage point or less in September.

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Mortgage brokers Employment data Nonbank Bureau of Labor Statistics Mortgage rates