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Housing Crisis: Lawyers Get Hired As Others 'Fired'

During the recent housing boom, which is broadly defined as starting in January of 2003 and taking a turn for the worst in April of 2006, the economy added 1.29 million housing-related jobs (according to Moody’s Economy.com). Since that April, the sector has so far lost about 300,000 jobs, but many fear the worst is yet to come.

Countrywide Financial's announcement Friday that it would send 12,000 employees packing was a dramatic hit to anyone even considering a career in anything related to buying or selling a house, but I don’t know that we’ve focused enough on other sectors being equally hard-hit. In just the past few weeks, two of the nation’s biggest title insurance companies have announce layoffs in the thousands (remember, you can’t buy a house without title insurance), and claims, which are filed often due to foreclosure or due to other liens on a property, are way way up.

Jobs will go in mortgage lending, title insuring, home appraising, home construction, and of course good old home selling. I asked the National Association of Realtors if they’d seen a drop in membership lately, and they reported back absolutely not, that the number of Realtors is still rising.

But I interviewed David Lereah today, the old flak for the Realtors, who went off into corporate land a few months ago and therefore gets to speak a bit more freely now. He says you are going to find far fewer Realtors out there next year. He says you don’t see it in the numbers now because Realtors will generally keep their licenses and membership up to date, even if they’ve given up and gone to work somewhere else.

Oh, and the silver lining? Lawyers. Wouldn’t you know it. Bankruptcy firms are adding staff, gearing up for some big corporate restructuring, from builders to banks, as trouble in the credit markets roil corporations and force them to file more chapters than the latest 'Harry Potter.' Wasn’t it Maria Von Trapp who said, whenever a door closes, a window opens?

And speaking of jobs...you have to read to believe this one.

Questions? Comments? RealtyCheck@cnbc.com

  • Diana Olick serves as CNBC's real estate correspondent as well as the editor of the Realty Check section on CNBC.com.

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