WASHINGTON – Consumer credit increased at an annual rate of 8.25 percent in May, up $19.6 billion from the month before, according to data released Monday by the U.S. Federal Reserve.
This jump exceeded expectations of economists polled by Reuters, who predicted consumer borrowing would rise $12.5 billion.
Total outstanding consumer debt hit a record $2.8 trillion.
Revolving credit or credit card debt increased by $6.6 billion in May, while nonrevolving credit, which includes borrowing for cars and student loans, rose by $13 billion.
“To see numbers head in this direction…underscores that people are becoming more confident, more willing to get themselves into debt,” said John Ulzheimer, president of Consumer Education at SmartCredit.com.
Consumer credit often goes up at the start of summer, but an increase this big means there is more going on, Ulzheimer said. A number of other factors – the dwindling employment rate, a record-breaking market and incredibly low interest rates on autos – likely led to more borrowing in June, he said.
On the other hand, too much borrowing can be worrisome.
“I don’t know that being in a lot of debt is ever healthy,” Ulzheimer said. “It’s always indicative of risk.”
Ulzheimer said the upward trajectory is likely to continue, but any significant shift in the economy or markets would impact consumer confidence.
“Things can change very quickly,” Ulzheimer said.
The Federal Reserve’s monthly data on consumer credit excludes mortgage loans and other loans related to real estate.