IRVING In what could be the biggest hit to employment in North Texas in several years, MetLife is getting out of the mortgage origination business.

The decision leaves more than 800 workers in Irving out of a job, victims of the housing crisis.

Of the 1,400 employees at the MetLife Home Loans office in Irving, the company says about 860 will lose their jobs. MetLife notified the city late Tuesday.

It was a surprise we got the notice, but in this economy... in this specific industry... it's not such a shock, said Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne.

Tuesday, the Irving headquarter was crawling with security, who have been instructed employees not to speak to the media.

Several employees spoke to News 8 off camera despite the warning. They described a somber scene inside the workplace, saying employees huddled over cubicles trying to figure out what they will do next.

MetLife got into the mortgage origination business in 2008, just as the housing market tanked.

By last year, the company said it intended to sell the business, with 4,300 workers nationwide, citing uncertainty in the marketplace and tougher regulations.

MetLife said it will continue making reverse mortgages, and in a written statement the company added:

MetLife Home Loans will continue to service its current mortgage customers. In addition, MetLife Home Loans will honor all contractual commitments for loans in process and expects the majority of loans to close in 90 days.

For those workers in the Irving office, MetLife says non-sales employees losing jobs will get 60 days' notice, and all workers are eligible for severance.

The city hopes to find work for them in Irving. We never like to see jobs leaving the city, Mayor Van Duyne said. We don't like to see jobs leaving the area, but we're going to do what we can and do our best to try to get new jobs for those employees and try to keep them in the city.

Unable to sell the home loan business, MetLife decided to shut it down. Mayor Van Duyne says the city has a contract with the Irving Chamber of Commerce to assist laid-off workers find jobs in other businesses, and the Chamber will get to work on that.

WFAA's Cynthia Vega contributed to this report

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