Mortgage companies sharply cut their payrolls in January by 10,300 full-time positions, a reaction to both declining loan applications and a weaker outlook for originations.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that employment in the mortgage banker/broker sector fell to 249,400 in January from 259,700 in December.

The BLS figures revealed a 4,700 reduction in the number of mortgage brokers counted in January, following a 1,600 dip in December.

One California broker, requesting his name not be used, said his firm cut its LO staff by 30% in January.

Fannie Mae economists estimate that single-family loan production could fall 32% to $1.03 trillion this year, compared to $1.53 trillion last year. The refinancing share is expected to fall to 35% of loan volume, compared to 65% in 2010.

Although the mortgage job numbers were not pretty, the overall employment report was positive. The government reported that total nonfarm employment rose by 92,000 in February with the job numbers for December and January revised upward to 152,000 and 63,000, respectively. The national unemployment rate dipped to 8.9% in February - but with 13.7 million Americans still looking for work.

There is a one-month lag in reporting on employment in the mortgage industry.

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