Jobs are what will get our national economy out of the doldrums. Job growth nationally has flattened out, and at a very low rate, over the past three months. But perhaps even more importantly, mortgage job growth has been flat.

The industry’s job total for May (results are a month behind those for the national economy) came to 266,500. While this is up somewhat from an industry low of around 250,000, it is nowhere near the more than 500,000 employed in the industry before the crisis of 2008. More importantly, in May 2011 the number was 270,000. So for the last year, dead flat.

What could turn these doldrums around? The canary in the mineshaft is the new home sector. This is the worst sector of the battered housing industry. Obviously, to build a new home takes construction workers, subcontractors, and eventually large shopping expeditions to home improvement retailers. This enormous employment engine has been idling for all the years of the crisis and recovery. The current annual rate of 328,000 new home sales is just devastating.

There’s nothing wrong with existing home sales. The current crop of refinancings due to depressed interest rates and the sales (and rentals!) of foreclosed homes have kept the lights on in the business, at least. But things won’t be the same until the purchase market and the residential construction market come back.

While the basic mortgage jobs picture has been flat, there are variations within it. Mortgage banking firms have lost 6,000 jobs, while mortgage brokerages have gained 6,000 jobs.

Gaining origination specialists can mean nothing but good in terms of future originations. Brokers left the field by the tens of thousands during the crisis. It’s good to see a few coming back.

Brokers get the lion’s share of the blame for the mortgage crisis. While they may have been a star performer in the debacle, it’s good to remember that the mortgage disaster was a team effort. And our observation over many years of observing is that a good broker is a great advocate for her customers, probably the best in the business. (Try getting your bank LO to come over on a weekend!)

Let’s all hire more people and let the industry build and sell more houses. That’s a recipe for industry and national renewal.

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