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Economy in Brief

U.S. Consumer Credit Outstanding Declines in January
by Tom Moeller  March 5, 2021

• Credit card borrowing continues to retreat.

• Nonrevolving credit usage slows further.

Consumers reduced credit balances further in January. Consumer credit outstanding fell a seasonally adjusted $1.3 billion (-0.3% y/y) during January in the first decline since August. It followed an $8.8 billion December gain, revised from $9.7 billion and a $13.4 billion November rise, revised from $13.9 billion. A $12.0 billion rise had been expected in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. The ratio of consumer credit outstanding-to-disposable personal income fell to 21.7% from 23.9% during all of last year and from 25.6% during all of 2019.

Revolving consumer credit balances declined $9.9 billion (-12.0% y/y) after weakening $2.8 billion in December, revised from $-3.0 billion. They have been falling for a year. Credit provided by depository institutions (90% of the total and mostly credit card debt), dropped 12.2% y/y. Credit union borrowing fell 7.8% y/y and finance company loans fell 18.6% y/y.

Nonrevolving credit usage increased $8.6 billion (3.8% y/y) in January after rising $11.6 billion in December, revised from $12.7 billion. Federal government borrowing, which issues over 40% of nonrevolving credit, grew 4.3% y/y. Depository institution loans (29% of credit) grew a greatly lessened 2.6% y/y, down from 6.8% y/y growth as of December 2019. Finance company borrowing (16.0% of loans) firmed 5.1% y/y and credit union loans (14.0% of the total) increased 3.2% y/y compared to double-digit growth in each year from 2014 to 2018.

These Federal Reserve Board figures are break-adjusted and calculated by Haver Analytics. The breaks in the series in 2005, 2010 and 2015 are the result of the incorporation of the Census and Survey of Finance Companies, as well as changes in the seasonal adjustment methodology.

The consumer credit data are available in Haver's USECON database. The Action Economics figures are contained in the AS1REPNA database.

 Consumer Credit Outstanding (M/M Chg, SA) Jan Dec Nov Jan y/y 2020 2019 2018
Total ($ bil) -1.3 8.8 13.4 -0.3% -0.1% 4.6% 4.8%
   Nonrevolving 8.6 11.6 13.8 3.8 3.9 4.9 5.2
   Revolving -9.9 -2.8 -0.5 -12.0 -11.2 3.7 3.7
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