Confidence in the U.S. economy appears to be rising amid low gas prices and a strong dollar as Americans stepped up their borrowing pace in September, according the the Federal Reserve’s G.19 consumer credit report.
Outstanding consumer credit, a reflection of non-mortgage debt, rose $28.9 billion, or at a 10% annual rate, in September, the Fed reported. It was the largest percentage increase since April 2014.
The dollar increase was the largest since record keeping began in 1941, not adjusting for inflation, and it marked a sharp increase from August when consumer credit rose a slightly revised $16 billion.
Revolving credit, mostly credit cards, rose at a 8.7% annual rate. In August, it rose at an annual rate of 5.3%.
Non-revolving credit, made up mostly of auto and student loans, increased at an annual rate of 10.5%, up from a rate of 5.7% in August.
Consumer spending makes up about two-thirds of output in the economy and has become an increasingly important gauge of the economy’s strength. Business investment fell and trade slowed in the third quarter, according to the Commerce Department, putting more burden on U.S. consumers to prop up growth.
The Labor Department reported Friday that the economy created 271,000 jobs in September, the most this year, pushing the unemployment rate down to a seven-year low of 5%. Economists are looking for a strong consumer sector to help make up for trouble spots in other parts of the economy.
The overall economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, grew at a lackluster annual rate of 1.5% in the July-September quarter, less than half the 3.9% rate turned in during the April-June period.
Part of that weakness reflected global economic weakness, which is causing problems for U.S. manufacturers. But economists forecast that growth will rebound in the final three months of the year to around 2.5%, with the revival fueled in large part by consumer spending.