Stepped-up borrowing for cars and schooling drove consumer credit up $17.8 billion in January, according to data from the Federal Reserve. At $2.5 trillion, consumer credit is nearly on par with the pre-recession borrowing level.
Specifically, the Fed-monitored category comprised primarily of auto and student loans increased $20.7 billion ― the biggest jump since November 2011. The gain was offset by a $2.9 billion decline in credit card borrowing.
While economists consider the higher debt level as a sign that consumer confidence is being restored, they worry that consumers are borrowing more at a time when wages are growing slower than the rate of inflation.