The eight largest mortgage lenders, as measured by total volume in the first nine months of 2008, reported declines in originations from a year earlier. In the third quarter, total mortgage originations fell to $300 billion, down nearly 50% from a year earlier and a 33% drop from this year's second quarter. The declines partly reflect lower demand as the U.S. economy slows down, as well as tighter credit standards by leery lenders. At the same time, traditional mortgage-loan giants are facing a tougher challenge from some lenders that usually don't get mentioned with the industry's heavyweights. With larger lenders now preoccupied with cleaning up the mess left when the housing bubble burst, the fact that other institutions are revving up their mortgage lending could help consumers who have had trouble finding anyone willing to lend. Jay Brinkmann, chief economist for the Mortgage Bankers Association, says many medium-size mortgage lenders are well-positioned for the turbulent environment because of their specialization in loans sold to government agencies. Such loans dominate the current mortgage market, partly because securitization is essentially dormant. Smaller banks also have higher capital-reserve requirements than larger rivals, which left them "operating on better capital cushions going into this downturn,".