Nonbank mortgage employment hasn't been this low since 2016

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Nonbank mortgage companies cut payrolls by 3,100 full-time employees in December, bringing the level of hiring in the industry to its lowest point in more than two years.

Employment by nondepository mortgage lenders and brokers totaled 328,900 in December 2018, down from 332,000 the previous month, and 336,600 a year earlier. The November 2018 estimate was revised downward by 5,000 jobs, and the December 2017 estimate was revised downward by 4,500 jobs as part of the BLS's year-end adjustment of its monthly sample-based estimates. Hiring by nondepository home-lenders hasn't been this low since October 2016, when it totaled 326,300.

Although this year's revisions showed employment numbers have been lower than previously estimated, the overall seasonal trends reflected in the earlier estimates — increased spring and summer hiring that fell as the colder months set in — remained the same.

The BLS releases industry-specific employment data a month after its national estimates. The bureau's estimate for total U.S. jobs show overall employment increased by 304,000 in January, thanks in part to increased employment by the construction industry.

"Residential construction recorded strong employment growth, adding the most jobs since February 2018. The additional jobs suggest that positive housing construction activity will continue, helping to alleviate the for-sale housing shortage," Doug Duncan, chief economist at Fannie Mae, said in a press release.

The unemployment rate inched up to 4% from 3.9% the previous month. When the unemployment rate increases during a month when the total number of jobs grows, it's often the result of an increase in the number of people looking for work. However, in January, "the impact of the partial federal government shutdown contributed to the uptick in these measures," the BLS said.

"Today's report on January employment conditions shows that the job market remains exceptionally strong," Mike Fratantoni, senior vice president and chief economist at the Mortgage Bankers Association, said in a press release. "Although the partial government shutdown may have temporarily increased the unemployment rate, this pace of job creation will continue to support higher wages, which will in turn support strong housing demand.

"With the Fed just this week highlighting that they would remain 'patient' with respect to any future interest rate increases, mortgage rates are likely to remain stable," he added. "Stable rates and growing wages are a good combination for potential homebuyers."

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Employment data Nonbank Mortgage brokers Government shutdown Mortgage rates Housing market Bureau of Labor Statistics Mortgage Bankers Association Fannie Mae