A new report from the Federal Reserve reveals that U.S. household debt has risen to a record $16.9 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2022, according to the New York Federal Reserve Bank's Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit published Thursday. Credit card balances increased $61 billion in the fourth quarter to $986 billion, surpassing the pre-pandemic high of $927 billion.
The share of current debt transitioning into delinquency increased for nearly all debt types, following two years of historically low delinquency transitions. Transition rates into early delinquency for credit cards and auto loans increased by 0.6 and 0.4 percentage points, respectively, following similarly sized increases in the second and third quarters. Delinquency transition rates for mortgages upticked by 0.15 percentage points, while those for student loans have remained flat, as the federal repayment pause remains in place.
In the fourth quarter of 2022, mortgage balances surged to $11.92 trillion, growing by $254 billion and representing an increase of almost one trillion dollars over the course of the year. Auto loan balances grew by $28 billion to $1.55 trillion, while student loan debt grew by $21 billion to $1.60 trillion.
Decades of high inflation have led to the Federal Reserve instituting multiple rate hikes, concurrent with the increase in credit card debt in America. As of Feb. 15, Bankrate.com reports that the average credit card rate has risen to 19.91%, a significant increase from the 16.28% rate recorded a year prior. This is a result of a rapid rise in interest rates overall in the past year.
However, despite indicators of a resilient labor market, the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) still expects slower hiring and rising unemployment, with the rate growing to 5.2% by the end of the year. According to a statement from the trade association, there will be a further rise in mortgage delinquencies.
“Notwithstanding the fourth-quarter increase in mortgage delinquencies, the foreclosure starts rate of 0.14 percent was well below the historical quarterly average of 0.40 percent,” said MBA Chief Economist Mike Walsh. Homeowners in distress can access loss mitigation options, as well as the equity they have built up in their home, to help alleviate financial stress and avoid foreclosure.
Consumers can move their debt over to a balance transfer credit card with lower interest rates to help get their debt under control.
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