Credit-card defaults slid in September to the lowest level in 2 1/2 years, continuing a downward trend as the economy heals, said Fitch Ratings.

After an August hiccup, Fitch's prime credit-card chargeoff index fell back below the 10% mark to 9.22% from 10.36% a month earlier. Chargeoffs are at an 18-month lower and 14% lower than a year earlier.

A host of data have indicated that delinquencies on credit cards and other debt have been on the decline this year as the U.S. has exited the recession and the economy has improved somewhat. Still, unemployment--a significant factor in whether consumers can pay their credit-card bills--remains high.

As long as improvement continues "in the employment situation, particularly on the new jobless claims front, we could foresee further improvements" in chargeoffs, Fitch managing director Michael Dean said. He said defaults still remain high on a historical basis.

The firm said late-stage delinquencies improved in September for the ninth straight month, while early-stage delinquencies were flat for the month. The monthly payment rate, after four months of consecutive improvement, declined slightly.

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