Employment in the mortgage industry hit a new high in February as lenders added 6,500 full-time employees after trimming their payrolls during the previous three months.The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that employment in the mortgage industry jumped from 498,399 in January to 504,000 in February. Freddie Mac deputy chief economist Amy Crews Cutts said originations declined in the first quarter but that refinancings held up better than expected as homeowners got out of their adjustable-rate home equity and home improvement loans. Refi activity also got a boost from resets on hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages. Ms. Cutts noted that one large company fired a lot of workers, but had to hire them back again. "They thought the refi boom was totally dead, but it turned out to be just slower," she said. Anticipation that originations will increase in the spring selling season may also be a factor in hiring decisions. Freddie Mac estimates that originations will jump from $540 billion in the first quarter to $655 billion in the second quarter. In addition, lenders are willing to take on the more complex and labor-intensive loans to borrowers who are going through divorces or face other issues. "In the past, these borrowers would not have gotten a return phone call," the Freddie economist said.

Subscribe Now

Authoritative analysis and perspective for every segment of the mortgage industry

30-Day Free Trial

Authoritative analysis and perspective for every segment of the mortgage industry