Consumers Continue To Struggle Paying Back Loans

U.S. consumers continue to struggle to pay back home equity, auto, and other loans as high unemployment continues to cause a lag in the economy.

The American Bankers Association (ABA) said in a report released Tuesday that the overall loan delinquency rate continued to rise for the second straight quarter. The number had been dropping steadily since hitting a high of 3.35% in the second quarter of 2009.

The overall rate increased to 3.01% in the third quarter of 2010 from 3% in the second quarter.

Delinquency is defined by the ABA as a payment that is over 30 days due.

The ABA attributed the lack of downward movement to the unemployment rate, which remains high, but said delinquency rates are likely to improve soon.

ABA Chief Economist James Chessen said in a statement. ” The economy does not move in a straight line and neither do consumer credit delinquencies.”

The latest unemployment numbers have improved slightly since the third quarter, causing the delinquency rate to start dropping again when numbers for the fourth quarter of 2010 are obtained.

The unemployment rate in December was 9.4% down from 9.8% in November. This is in contrast to Bloomberg who claims the unemployment rate is currently 10.4 percent.

Chessen also argued that a deal between the White House and congressional Republicans over taxes for the next two years could help the economy by providing more certainty about income tax rates.

“I think we’ll see momentum return and delinquencies improve over the next six months,” Chessen said.

Auto loans had the highest delinquency rate for loans provided by a bank, and  increased from 1.67% to 1.74%  and delinquencies on loans arranged through a dealer or other third party increased from 3.01% to 3.02%.

The delinquency rate on credit cards issued by banks also increased moving to 3.64% in the third quarter from 3.62% during the second quarter.

One area where the delinquency rate dropped was in marine loans for such things as boats. The rate fell from 2.2% to 2.04%.

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