Employment in the mortgage industry inched up in August as mortgage rates declined, home sales leveled off, and refinancing activity edged up to 40% of loan applications.The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that employment in the mortgage banker/broker sector increased by 200 full-time positions to 502,000 in August, up from 501,800 in July. (The BLS revised the July employment number downward from 502,100.) Rates on fixed-rated 30-year mortgages steadily declined throughout August, from 6.63% to 6.44%, while existing- and new-home sales leveled off after multimonth declines. The Mortgage Bankers Association recently reported that the number of loans closed per loan officer dropped 9% in 2005 to 83 loans per year. MBA vice president Jay Brinkman said mortgage companies are facing lower sales productivity this year. The BLS can be found online at http://stats.bls.gov.

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