U.S. credit card defaults surged to a record in August as unemployment rose to the highest level in a quarter century, Fitch Ratings said Thursday.
Writeoffs for loans deemed uncollectible climbed to 11.52%, compared with 10.55% in July, according to Fitch's Prime Credit Card Chargeoff Index. Loans at least 30 days delinquent, an indicator of future losses, "remained elevated" at around 5.5%, Fitch said.
Card issuers have struggled with rising defaults as the recession drove up unemployment to 9.7% in August, the highest since 1983. Credit card writeoffs typically track the U.S. jobless rate. The percentage of soured loans surged at the biggest U.S. card lenders, including JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp. and Citigroup Inc., the banks reported in federal filings Sept. 15.
"Overall stress on consumers remains high and employment trends are still weak," Fitch analyst Michael Dean said in a press release. "As a result, chargeoffs will remain elevated until we see improvement in the unemployment rate and more meaningful declines in delinquencies."
Fitch's findings follow a Sept. 23 report by Moody's Investors Service, which said defaults in August rose to a record 11.49% from 10.52%.