Gains in student and auto loans fueled an increase in consumer borrowing in November, according to the latest Federal Reserve G.19 report.
Consumers increased their borrowing by $12.3 billion in November to a seasonally adjusted $3.09 trillion. The record level follows an October increase of $17.9 billion. Nearly all of the November increase came from an $11.9 billion rise in borrowing for auto loans and student loans.
Credit card borrowing plunged after the Great Recession and consumers remain cautious about taking on high-interest debt. It has gradually risen to its highest level in more than three years, but is still 16 percent down from its peak of more than $1 trillion reached in 2008.
Borrowing in the category that covers credit cards rose only $457.8 million after an October surge.
Through November, the measure of auto loans and student loans is 8.2 percent from a year ago and has increased in every month but one since May 2010. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York quarterly report on consumer credit shows student loan debt has been the biggest driver of borrowing since the Great Recession officially ended in June 2009.
Still, consumers are starting to spend, even if they have resisted using credit cards. Consumer spending rose 0.5 percent in November, the biggest increase in five months, according to the Commerce Department. That solid showing suggests solid economic growth in the final three months of 2013.
Auto sales ended the year strongly, while other purchases have picked up.
The Fed's report tracks credit card debt, auto loans and student loans but not mortgages, home equity loans and other loans.