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Bank Hiring Offers Glimmer of Hope

Those tallies don't include smaller financial shops around the country that have begun to hire once again. There are also new start-ups that seized on big banks' weaknesses, sensing the industry wasn't prepared to handle huge demand for mortgage refinancings. And more are in the pipeline.

According to a Treasury Department report last week, only one out of every five mortgage holders eligible for a government-subsidized modification has begun the process. Roughly 2.6 million more are eligible; offers have been extender to 919,965 of them.

There are hundreds of thousands of ineligible homeowners whose mortgages are being worked out, too. Modification data from Wells Fargo -- which has been a leader in the refi boom and touches about one of every six U.S. home loans -- speaks to that fact. The bank has modified 1.5 million home loans, just 403,044 of which fit into the Treasury's program.

Broadly speaking, Labor Department data show that the financial sector is still cutting jobs, and has lost a net 529,000 jobs since the beginning of last year. However, net job losses and the annual rate of change have declined sharply in recent months. It appears that those losses may have peaked in August -- or at least that the hirings had begun to counteract the firings.

Of course, banks hiring for bond traders and loan modifiers doesn't mean that every mom-and-pop shop across the country will put up "help wanted" signs. The broad unemployment rate has soared past 10%, or is at 17.5%, depending on who is factored in. There isn't a consensus among economists that it has topped out quite yet, since the job market is a lagging indicator of economic recovery.

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