Total household debt in first quarter passes pre-recession peak

by Rincey Abraham

Total household debt reached $12.73 trillion in the first quarter of 2017, which is above the 2008 peak before the housing market crash and economic downturn, according to new data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

However, the data also shows that the debt is healthier than it was previously. Currently, consumers are delinquent on 3.8 percent of total debt. In 2009, it was almost 12 percent of total debt.

β€œAlmost nine years later, household debt has finally exceeded its 2008 peak but the debt and its borrowers look quite different today. This record debt level is neither a reason to celebrate nor a cause for alarm. But it does provide an opportune moment to consider debt performance,” said Donghoon Lee, research officer at the New York Fed.

Housing Debt

Housing-related debt makes up a smaller percentage than in 2008 while student loans and auto loans make up a higher percentage. In 2008, mortgages were 73.3 percent of total debt, but currently are only 67.8 percent.

Mortgage balances made up the largest portion of total household debt at $8.63 trillion, which is up $147 billion from the fourth quarter of 2016. Additionally, balances on home equity lines of credit fell $17 billion in the first quarter to $456 billion.

Non-Housing Debt

Student loans saw the highest gains in percentage of total debt, rising from 4.8 percent in 2008 to 10.6 percent in the first quarter of 2017. This also marked an increase in every year throughout the 18-year history of tracking. Auto loans rose from 6.4 percent to 9.2 percent of total debt continuing its steady rise since 2011.

Credit card balances were down overall, but delinquencies and the aggregate credit card limit increased in the first quarter.