WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans boosted their borrowing in August by the largest amount in three months with strong gains in the category that covers auto and student loans and in credit card debt.
Total consumer borrowing increased $18.1 billion in August compared with July, the Federal Reserve reported Friday. In July, consumer borrowing had fallen for the first time in nearly a year.
The rebound in August along with a separate report that showed the nation's unemployment rate dropped to 7.8 percent in September were viewed as encouraging signs for an economy that has been struggling.
The August borrowing gains reflected a $4.2 billion increase in borrowing on credit cards and a $13.9 billion increase in auto and student loans.
Retail sales rose in August, in part because consumers bought more cars and trucks. However, they were cautious elsewhere.
Activity through August left total consumer debt at $2.73 trillion, putting it 5.5 percent above the pre-recession peak for credit hit in July 2008.
Consumers have been using credit cards much less since the 2008 credit crisis. Four years ago, Americans had $1.03 trillion in credit card debt, an all-time high. In August, that figure was 17 percent lower.
During the same period, student loan debt has increased dramatically. The category that includes auto and student loans, along with other loans for items such as boats, has jumped to a level 20.3 percent higher than July 2008.
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