Mortgage companies trimmed 2,900 full-time employees from their payrolls in January, marking the third consecutive month in which employment in the mortgage banker/broker sector has declined.The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that employment in the mortgage industry declined from 500,700 in December to 497,800 in January. The decline in industry jobs occurred even though the 30-year mortgage rate hovered near 6.00% in January and refinancings constituted over 40% of mortgage applications. Since then, mortgage rates have gone up and the refi business has cooled. But the purchase-mortgage market has remained strong. Friday's employment report shows that construction jobs increased by 55,000 in January and 41,000 in February. "What housing slowdown, right?" asked Stephen Stanley, RBS Greenwich Capital's chief economist. "Home sales may be slowing down, but builders have plenty of orders in the pipeline to keep them busy for a long time."

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