Nonbank mortgage employment rose for the fourth consecutive month in June, as loan production during the second quarter was higher than expected at the start of the year.
Nondepository mortgage lenders and brokers added 5,000 jobs in June, bringing total employment to 341,000 from a revised 336,100 for May, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. May's original estimate was reduced by 600 jobs.
Lenders added 2,800 jobs, while brokers added 2,200 positions. It's the largest one-month gain in nonbank mortgage jobs since independent mortgage bankers and brokers added 5,100 jobs in July 2016. Employment is at its highest level since November 2007, when 348,700 people worked in the sector.
In June, Fannie Mae increased its 2017 origination forecast to $1.62 trillion from $1.59 trillion as refinance activity was stronger than expected. And the Mortgage Bankers Association now forecasts total volume of $1.7 trillion for 2017, up from the $1.6 trillion it forecast last December.
In July, the MBA projected second-quarter purchase lending volume of $316 billion, up from an earlier estimate of $310 billion. The MBA's refinance volume estimate also increased to $147 billion, from $120 billion. Annual purchase mortgage volume for 2017 is expected to be $1.1 trillion, up from $990 billion for 2016.
Mortgage industry employment data lags the BLS national data by one month. Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 209,000 jobs in July, and the unemployment rate was relatively flat at 4.3%.
"Employment growth has averaged 184,000 per month thus far this year, in line with the average monthly gain in 2016," a statement from acting BLS Commissioner William Wiatrowski said.
The increase in employment was broad-based and the report was the sign of a strong labor market, Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan said in a statement.
"One could nitpick the lack of a pickup in year-over-year wage gains, which have stayed within a narrow range of 2.5% to 2.8% this year. However, in the context of decelerating headline and core inflation witnessed since early 2017, the steady annual wage increase isn't too shabby," he said.
"All in all, today's report is consistent with gradual monetary normalization; therefore, we continue to expect September balance-sheet tapering and a December rate hike," Duncan added.