U.S. Household Debt Hits New High, With Older Borrowers Holding Larger Share

The debt load of U.S. consumers — including credit cards, and auto and student loans — is growing — and fewer are inquiring about taking on more credit.

Overall household debt is now 21.2 percent above the post-financial-crisis bottom hit during the second quarter of 2013, according to newly released data from the New York Federal Reserve. The report is based on a nationally representative sample of individual- and household-level debt and credit records taken from Equifax credit data.

Total household debt increased by $219 billion (1.6 percent) to $13.51 trillion in the third quarter of 2018, the report said. It was the 17th consecutive quarter with an increase. Moreover, the total is now $837 billion higher than the previous peak of $12.68 trillion in the third quarter of 2008.

Non-mortgage debt jumped by $88 billion in the third quarter, with auto loans increasing by $27 billion, credit card balances going up by $15 billion, and student loan balances seeing a seasonally typical $37 billion increase.

“The new charts in our report help to better understand how the debt and repayment landscape have shifted in the years following the Great Recession,” said Donghoon Lee, research officer at the New York Fed, in a statement. “Older borrowers now hold a larger share of total outstanding debt balances, while the shares held by younger borrowers have contracted and shifted toward auto loans and student loans.”

The number of credit inquiries within the past six months, which is an indicator of consumer credit demand, increased slightly, but remains among the lowest seen in the history of the data, the New York Fed said.

Mortgage delinquency transition rates increased slightly with about 1.2 percent of current balances transitioning into delinquency.