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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Hiring/Layoff Trends Paint Conflicting Pictures?

We're always looking at the MLS numbers and interest rates, but what are some other signs that we can keep our eyes on locally to get a feel for the direction of the housing market? The hiring/layoff trends of certain industries are a good thing to watch. I received an interesting email from a reader on this subject, in which he said:

Our office has received two résumé's over the past two weeks from employees laid off by Chicago Title. More recently, Stewart Title has laid off sales staff according to others we know in the business. I've always thought in my mind that one of the primary bellwethers for a market is to watch the Title companies.
On the other side of the coin, the Puget Sound Business Journal claims that local banks are having a hard time finding people to hire:
With job growth on a roll in the Puget Sound area, local banks say it's getting harder to fill a wide range of positions, and salaries are ticking up, especially above the entry level.

Buoyed by the housing boom, a spate of startup banks has emerged over the past two years, and companies ranging from Washington Mutual Inc. to the upstart West Sound Bank have been rapidly building branches and searching for employees to fill them.

Pinched between this demand for labor and a shortage of loan officers and other experienced workers, local banks now say they are forced to conduct nationwide searches for new employees, offer higher salaries, and hire less-experienced candidates with hopes they will learn on the job.
So which is it? Are the banks giving us a sign that the housing market is healthy and only going to keep going up, or are the title companies sounding a quiet warning that we're on the brink of a downward trend? Your thoughts?

(Justin Matlick, Puget Sound Business Journal, 01.13.2006)

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