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THE MORTGAGE MELTDOWN

Housing woes afflict many

August 11, 2007|Annette Haddad, Andrea Chang and Daniel Yi | Times Staff Writers

The sub-prime mortgage pain convulsing financial markets is nothing new to people who make their livings in real estate and the housing construction industry. For months, the deteriorating market has been taking money out of millions of workers' pockets.

Real estate agents are selling fewer homes. Appraisers and construction workers are scrambling for assignments. Mortgage loan company employees are being laid off by the thousands.

During the peak of the housing boom in California -- from 2003 to 2005 -- the construction and real estate industry accounted for nearly a third of all new jobs created in the state, said Ryan Ratcliff, an economist for the UCLA Anderson Forecast. Today, he said, they account for about 10%.

The number of people thrown out of work by the housing slump is hard to calculate. The state doesn't precisely track several of the housing industry's occupations, including commissioned real estate agents, mortgage brokers, day laborers and self-employed professionals.

But economists have made some calculations. Christopher Thornberg of Beacon Economics in Los Angeles, for example, has estimated that California could lose more than 200,000 real estate-related jobs before the housing market bottoms out -- and he hasn't tried to predict when that may happen. People are hurting, Thornberg said, "and it still has not all shaken out yet."

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