If you need a mortgage or are looking to arrange a loan modification, there are fewer people working in the mortgage industry who might assist you than there were a few months ago.

Mortgage industry employment fell in the third quarter of the year, the first downturn in nearly a year. The industry had slowly begun to add people again after steep cutbacks that came with the decline of the housing market.

Layoffs exceeded hirings by 930 people in the third quarter, according to figures released today by MortgageDaily.com, following three consecutive quarters of rising employment. The decline was largely attributed to Wells Fargo's decision last July to close its Wells Fargo Financial Inc. division, a 100-year old entity.

Wells Fargo decided the division was no longer needed after it decided to get out of the business of subprime lending, and because its purchase of Wachovia Inc. meant it no longer needed the more than 600 Wells Fargo Financial Offices. The move resulted in the elimination of approximately 2,800 jobs in the two months following the announcement, with another 1,000 to be cut over the coming year.

The Wells Fargo cuts made up the vast majority of the 3,216 industry-wide layoffs reported for the quarter, according to MortageDaily, compared to 2,286 hirings. Total mortgage industry employment was estimated at 246,000, less than half the 535,400 government figures reported at the industry's peak in October 2005.

Mortgage industry employment has generally been trending upward since bottoming out in the first quarter of 2009. A net total of 8,321 jobs were added in 2009, while 2010 employment remains up by 524 despite the recent job losses.

California experienced the most mortgage industry layoffs during the third quarter, although both it and Texas saw hundreds of hirings as well. North Carolina had the greatest net increase in mortgage jobs, more than 500, while the greatest net losses were in Maryland, Illinois and Oregon.

Published on November 29, 2010