WASHINGTON — The federal government released preliminary data Thursday that credit union lending grew 11% last year, to $301.3 billion.

“The overall health of credit unions remains at an all-time high,” acting National Credit Union Administration Chairman Dennis Dollar said in a statement that accompanied the data.

The numbers suggest that credit unions may have had a better year than banks, though full-year data for banks will not be available until March.

Bank and thrift lending rose 11.6% through the first three quarters of 2000, but recent Federal Reserve Board reports said that banks tightened lending standards and experienced lower loan demand in the fourth quarter. Bert Ely, an independent consultant in Alexandria, Va., said that the bank figure is expected to drop once fourth-quarter results are incorporated.

The NCUA did not provide quarterly breakdowns showing how the slowdown had affected credit unions.

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