Layoffs Hit Mortgage Companies Hard

Planned U.S. layoffs fell nearly 10 percent in September as the slump in housing continued to hurt payrolls, an independent report showed on Wednesday.

More than a third of last month's 71,739 announced job cuts came from mortgage lenders, construction companies and real estate firms, according to employment consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. So far this year, about one job cut in six is directly related to the struggling housing market, it said.

Announced layoffs totaled 71,739 in September, down 9.7 percent from 79,459 in August, when it hit a six-month high. They were 28.5 percent lower than September 2006, when employers announced 100,315 job cuts, one of only two times last year when monthly job cuts exceeded 100,000.

Year to date, employers have announced 587,594 job cuts, 8.1 percent fewer than the 639,229 cuts announced in the same period a year ago. Housing-related job cuts in the financial, construction and real estate sectors account for 97,509 or 16.6 percent of this year's job cuts. In contrast, these three sectors represented less than 2 percent of the January-through-September job-cut total in 2006.

"It appears that the automotive sector has stabilized for the time being, particularly since General Motors and the United Auto Workers reached a labor agreement. Meanwhile, financial firms cannot cut their payrolls fast enough, especially in the mortgage lending sector," said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.