WASHINGTON – Independent mortgage banking and brokerage firms added a whopping 5,900 full-time employees to their payrolls in June, according to a report issued Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Employment in the nonbank mortgage and brokerage sector rose to 307,000, its highest level since 2008.

The surge in hiring came as some mortgage lenders reported record earnings for the second quarter and home sales took off.

"June was a breakout month for home sales, with both new and existing home sales reaching fresh post-recession highs. Still-low mortgage rates and favorable credit conditions also remain supportive for home sales," economists at Wells Fargo Securities said in a July 29 Housing Chartbook report.

The positive results track with what mortgage firms have been reporting.

Stonegate, based in Indianapolis, originated $2.3 billion on residential mortgage loans in the second quarter, up 21% from the prior quarter.

Wholesale originations totaled $561.8 million in second quarter, up 31% from the first quarter, according to Stonegate Mortgage Corp. Chief Executive Jim Smith. "We posted another record earnings quarter," Smith told investors during a conference call Thursday.

The giant mortgage servicer Nationstar Mortgage Holdings is on track for its best origination year since 2012, said Jay Bray, the company's CEO. "With reduced mortgage rates, the mortgage market continues to be strong," Bray said during Wednesday's conference call.

Doug Duncan, chief economist for Fannie Mae, said Friday's report was unusual.

"It's rare to have a jobs report with a strong headline, yet so few blemishes in the details, and we got one today," he said, but he noted that hiring in the construction trades was relatively flat.

"Strengthening job and wage growth are positives for the demand side of the housing market, but weak residential construction hiring is worrisome from a supply perspective," Duncan said. "Together, these developments suggest continued strong home price appreciation."

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also revised the number of employees working in the nonbank mortgage and brokerage sector in May to 301,100, down by 400 full-time positions.

The bureau reported that the U.S. economy created 255,000 jobs overall in July and June employment count was revised upward to 292,000. There is a one-month lag in BLS reporting of mortgage industry jobs data.

The unemployment rate held steady at 4.9%.

"A better than expected employment report for July caps a two month period of robust U.S. Job gains," Scott Anderson, chief economist at the Bank of the West, wrote in a note early Friday. "These job numbers are good enough to keep the Fed on track for a December rate increase despite sluggish GDP growth in the first half of this year. The market is likely under estimating the chance of another hike this year. Fear of a sharp U.S. growth retrenchment ahead is likely overdone."

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