Fixed mortgage rates plummeted a full tenth of percent this week, marking their third consecutive week of decline in the wake of disappointing jobs numbers, according the data released Thursday by Freddie Mac.

The 15-year fixed rate average hit a new record low this week of 3.11 percent. (LARRY DOWNING/REUTERS)

The 30-year also approached its record low of 3.87 (set in February), averaging 3.88 percent this week after hovering just below 4.00 percent the last two weeks. This time last year, the 30-year averaged 4.91 percent.

The 5-year and 1-year hybrid adjustable rates remained relatively unchanged from last week, currently averaging at 2.85 percent and 2.80 percent, respectively.

Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist for Freddie Mac, pointed to last week’s weaker-than-expected employment report from the government as an explanation for the continued drop in the rates.

“Although the unemployment rate fell to the lowest reading since January 2009, the overall economy added just 120,000 new jobs in March, nearly half that of the market consensus forecast,” he said.

On the other hand, Nothalf pointed out that the Federal Reserve’s latest report released Wednesday showed that hiring was steady across most of its banking districts and that overall economic conditions were improving in each of the Fed’s dozen regions.

Data released by RealtyTrac on Thursday show that the number of foreclosure filings fell during the first quarter of 2012 to their lowest levels since the housing market began its collapse in 2007. Last month, foreclosures were filed on just fewer than 199,000 properties, marking the first time the monthly total fell below 200,000 in nearly five years.

Meanwhile, on the mortgage front this week, the chief regulator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac said Tuesday that new data indicate that it might make financial sense for the government-backed mortgage giants to reduce the loan balances of some struggling homeowners. However, according to the report, additonal analysis is required before such steps are taken.

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