Mortgage companies added 3,000 full-time employees to their payrolls in February after laying off 16,400 workers over the previous three months.The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that employment in the mortgage banking/broker sector rose from 488,300 in January to 491,300 in February. Considering the meltdown in the subprime sector, the sudden hiring may be explained by increasing demands on servicers to deal with rising delinquencies and foreclosures. The subprime default rate hit 10.52% in January, up 40 basis points in one month, according to a recent report by the investment banking firm Friedman, Billings, Ramsey & Co. Defaults on alternative-A loans rose to 1.86% in January, up 20 bps in one month.

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