Credit unions added 800,000 new members in the first quarter of the year, the best quarter ever for membership growth, the National Credit Union Administration said on Thursday.

The membership spurt brought total membership across the country to 94.6 million at the end of the first quarter.

Credit unions added 808,006 members in the first quarter, up from 700,000 in the first quarter last year, and have added 2.1 million members in the last four quarters.

While credit unions added members, the number of federally insured credit unions declined to 6,753, a drop of 66 for the quarter. The decline is consistent with recent industry trends.

The new members helped push loan growth up 0.4% in the first quarter, a traditional slow time for lending, and the fastest first-quarter growth in five years, NCUA said.

The new members also brought their savings with them, adding $32 billion of new deposits in the first quarter.

Still, the brunt of the growth continues in the biggest credit unions. The 423 largest credit unions had a return on average assets of 1% for the quarter. In comparison, 2,279 credit unions with less than $10 million in assets had an ROA of negative 0.14%, and 3,007 credit unions with $10 million to $100 million in assets had an ROA of just 30 basis points.

“While there are many positive signs in these statistics, I remain concerned about the disparate recovery of credit unions by asset size,” said NCUA Chairman Debbie Matz.

Smaller credit unions continued to have higher net worth, but lagged way behind in earnings, net worth, loan and membership growth.

The largest credit unions, those over $500 million in assets, had net worth growth of 10.5%, loan growth of 3.1%, and membership growth of 5%. As a whole, the industry had net worth growth of 2%, loan growth of 0.4%, and membership growth of 0.9% for the quarter.

But the best sign was that lending has begun to take off at credit unions. In the first quarter new auto loans surged 2%; member business loans grew by 1.9% and first mortgage loans by 1%.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.