Countrywide Financial Corp. said today it laid off nearly 5,000 workers in originations during September as mortgage loan fundings fell 44 percent from a year ago to $21 billion.

Delinquency rates on Countrywide’s $1.46 trillion servicing portfolio also jumped to 5.85 percent, although the company blamed about half of the 82-basis-point, one-month increase on the fact that September had four fewer business days than August.

The steep drop in September loan production helped drive loan production for the third quarter down 27 percent from the previous quarter and 19 percent year-over-year. Countrywide attributed the fall in production to market conditions and more restrictive underwriting.

The Calabasas, Calif.-based lender slashed subprime loan funding to $255 million in September, down from $1.3 billion in August and $3.1 billion a year ago. Government loan fundings were also down 25 percent compared to August, to $1.7 billion, and funding of adjustable-rate mortgages fell by more than half, to $3.8 billion.

After investors scaled back purchases of mortgage-backed securities and short-term commercial paper debt some mortgage lenders depend on to fund loans, Countrywide said it would lay off up to 12,000 workers, concentrate on loans eligible for purchase by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and originate loans through its banking unit.

Countrywide President and Chief Operating Officer David Sambol said today that the company originated 89 percent of its loan production through the bank in September, compared with 31 percent a year ago.

The bank generated $2.7 billion in new deposits in September — an all-time monthly record — to help deposits excluding escrows reach $44 billion, Countrywide reported.

Countrywide’s mortgage loan servicing portfolio continued to grow, albeit at a slower pace, reaching $1.46 trillion at the end of the month, up 17 percent from a year ago.

The company reported that it reduced total head count by 4,935 positions between August and September, to 55,932. That’s still about 400 more workers than the company employed a year ago, but a 9 percent reduction from a July 2007 peak of 61,586.

Countrywide cut 4,573 positions in loan originations in one month, with 29,085 working in that field at the end of September. The head count in loan closing services was also scaled back to 1,858 positions, a reduction of 126 workers from the month before.

Countrywide added 101 workers in loan servicing, boosting employment in that field to 8,283, a 19 percent increase from the 6,959 workers employed in servicing a year ago.

Employment in banking rose to 2,406 employees at the end up the month, up 23 percent from the 1,952 employed in that field at the start of the year.

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