Consumer Debt Growth May Have Stalled in Q3

Monday, January 16, 2017
consumer debt in third quarter 2016
Thinkstock/BrianAJackson

The growth of per capita consumer debt appears to have stalled in the United States. After an extended period of growth, real per capita consumer debt slipped 0.1 percent in the third quarter, according to the latest issue of The Quarterly Debt Monitor.

Don Schlagenhauf, chief economist for the St. Louis Fed’s Center for Household Financial Stability, and Lowell Ricketts, the Center’s senior analyst, analyzed consumer credit data and found that a decline in housing-related debt offset growth in other types of consumer debt during the third quarter.

“The latest data suggest that overall growth may have stalled, despite robust student and auto loan borrowing,” Schlagenhauf and Ricketts wrote.

Changes in Debt Levels

Per capita mortgage debt fell 1.7 percent in the third quarter, while home equity lines of credit dropped 2.9 percent. Other types of consumer debt continued to expand in the third quarter, but only student debt saw a stronger pace of growth compared to the second quarter of 2016:

  • Auto debt rose 6.2 percent in the third quarter, a slower pace than the 8.3 percent gain in the second quarter.
  • Credit card debt increased 0.7 percent in the third quarter versus 1.9 percent in the second quarter.
  • Student debt surged 6.7 percent in the third quarter versus 3.9 percent in the second quarter.

Debt Levels within the Eighth District

Schlagenhauf and Ricketts also looked at how consumer debt levels changed in the four largest metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) in the Eighth Federal Reserve District.1 The Louisville, Ky., and St. Louis MSAs nearly matched the national figure during the third quarter: Overall per capita debt was unchanged in Louisville and edged up 0.1 percent in St. Louis.

However, per capita debt grew 1.4 percent in the Little Rock, Ark., MSA as the decline in mortgage debt was more than offset by strong growth in all other types of consumer debt, including home equity lines of credit. Per capita debt rose 0.4 percent in the Memphis, Tenn., MSA.

Notes and References

1 The Eighth District is headquartered in St. Louis and includes all of Arkansas and parts of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.

Additional Resources

Posted In Financial  |  Tagged don schlagenhauflowell rickettscenter for household financial stabilityhfsconsumer debtconsumer creditmortgagesauto loanscredit cardsstudent loans
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