As the refinance boom enters its fourth month, mortgage companies are stretching their already beefed-up staffs to the limit and are facing a dearth of qualified workers, several lenders say.

Refinancings, fueled by mortgage rates that have hung steadily near 7% since late December, have soared to almost 60% of mortgage activity. Many lenders said they had anticipated an increase in volume during the first months of this year, but several said that the strength and endurance of the demand have taken them by surprise.

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