Estimates for the number of people employed by non-depositories in the mortgage business fell to levels last seen 24 months ago in the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report.
Mortgage banker and broker payrolls in October totaled around 388,200 compared to a downwardly revised 390,700 the previous month and 428,100 a year earlier. The numbers haven’t been this low since October 2020, when the industry employed 373,600.
Since the extraordinary refinancing boom that inflated the industry workforce started in 2020, the decline to a level last seen that year raises some hope that massive industry layoffs could be subsiding.
However, anecdotal evidence to date suggests mortgage jobs cuts across nonbanks and depositories are still in full swing, with some of the latest examples seen at Wells Fargo, Envoy Mortgage, and American Financing Corp.
Meanwhile, numbers for jobs in the broader economy — which are reported with less of a lag than nonbank mortgage estimates — remained relatively strong in the latest BLS report for November. U.S. employers added 263,000 jobs during the month, compared to the 200,000 expected.
Even with anecdotal evidence showing industry job cuts continuing through November, unemployment remained unchanged from the previous month at a historically low 3.7%.
Prognosticators expect that could change over time.
“With other data showing declines in job openings and increases in announced layoffs, we do expect further weakening ahead, with the unemployment rate likely to reach 5.5% by the end of 2023,” said Mike Frantatoni, chief economist at the Mortgage Bankers Association, in an email.
Forecasts for a recession also persist in part because while the latest numbers also show wages are increasing, they’re not keeping up with the cost of living, Fratantoni noted.
A recession could be a mixed blessing for mortgages, he said.”A weakening job market will eventually be a negative for the housing market, as it will reduce demand,” Fratantoni said. “However, reaching the Federal Reserve’s goal of reducing inflation will be a benefit to those still in a position to buy a home, as it will bring down mortgage rates and improve affordability.”