For the first time in five years, the total number of real estate licensees in California dropped slightly in December, according to California Department of Real Estate statistics.

The real estate regulatory agency reported that the total number of real estate licensees dropped from 549,244 in November 2007 to 548,959 in December, a 0.1 percent decline. It was the first monthly decline since March 2002.

Using the U.S. Census Bureau’s population estimate for the state of 36.6 million as of July 1, 2007, about 1.5 percent of the state’s population had real estate licenses in December. Under California’s real estate licensing laws, real estate brokers can also act as mortgage brokers.

The population of real estate brokers in the state increased from 150,528 in November 2007 to 150,934 in December 2007, while the population of real estate salespersons dropped from 398,716 in November to 398,025 in December.

Statistics reveal a dramatic drop in the number of salesperson license examinations in the state since September, while broker examinations have risen. There were 842 broker examinations administered in September and 14,918 salesperson examinations. That compares with 1,148 broker examinations administered in December 2007 and 1,315 salesperson examinations.

Salesperson examinations administered in the state dropped 85.3 percent from December 2006 to December 2007.

There were an estimated 192,727 Realtors in California as of Dec. 31, 2007, and 184,980 as of Jan. 31, 2008, according to a separate report by the National Association of Realtors. All Realtors in the state are real estate licensees, but not all real estate licensees are Realtors. The total number of Realtors in the state fell about 7.7 percent from January 2007 to January 2008.

Total Realtor membership, which includes U.S. members and Realtors in Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands, fell 3.7 percent in January 2008 compared to the same month last year. The association reported 1.29 million Realtors as of Jan. 31, 2008. Realtor membership has fallen on a year-over-year basis since Oct. 31 and on a month-to-month basis since Sept. 30, according to association statistics.

The association reported that its membership stood at 1.37 million as of Aug. 31 and has since fallen about 5.9 percent. Realtor membership in California peaked at 200,681 in November 2006.

Realtor membership declined most in Michigan, falling about 12.8 percent from January 2007 to January 2008. That state had 27,398 Realtors as of Jan. 31, 2008. Membership dropped 10.6 percent in Minnesota and 10.3 percent in Florida during the same period.

Realtor membership in Florida dropped 15.2 percent between Oct. 31, 2006, and Jan. 31, 2008.

Wyoming had the largest increase in Realtor membership among U.S. states from January 2007 to January 2008, rising about 5 percent to 2,350 Realtors as of Jan. 31, 2008. Realtor membership rose 4.2 percent in Mississippi and Alabama, 3.6 percent in Utah and 3.4 percent in North Carolina.

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