Washington Mutual, the nation's third-largest residential lender, revealed late Wednesday that it is slashing its mortgage work force by a stunning 19% (2,500 jobs), closing 10 processing sites in an effort to trim costs.The cuts by WaMu are -- by far -- the largest known layoffs by any mortgage firm during the recent industry downturn. Investment banking sources told MortgageWire that at least two other top-10 lenders are in the process of significant consolidations involving their sales forces and back-office operations. As of MortgageWire's deadline, the company's spokesman could not be reached for comment. After the cuts, the Seattle-based mega-thrift will have 16 processing locations left in the United States. Recently, WaMu combined its subprime division, Long Beach Mortgage, into its home loans group. (See the Feb. 20 issue of National Mortgage News for more details.)

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