U.S. consumers borrowed more heavily for auto and student loans in October, taking out debt that helps them find jobs and commute to work.
The Federal Reserve said Monday that consumer borrowing rose $16 billion in October to $3.5 trillion. But the pace of borrowing decelerated sharply from the $28.5 billion increase in September.
Nearly all of the October gain came from the category that covers auto and student loans, while credit-card borrowing edged up a mere $200 million. The increase suggests that more Americans are borrowing to improve their educational skills and upgrade their cars and trucks, instead of relying on debt to fund their daily shopping and emergency expenses.
Many economists expect that consumer spending will be relatively healthy in the coming months because of strong job gains that have bolstered auto and home sales for much of 2015. Yet a struggling global economy has tempered U.S. growth as the year draws to an end.
The Labor Department reported last week that employers added 211,000 jobs in November and 298,000 in October. The unemployment rate held steady at 5 percent last month. The report showed evidence that workers pushed to the sidelines during the Great Recession and sluggish six-year recovery are filtering back into the job market.
The overall economy has advanced despite a waning global economy that has dampened overall growth. U.S. gross domestic product – aided by consumer spending – advanced at an annual rate of 2.1 percent in the July-September quarter, down from a 3.9 percent rate in the prior quarter.
The deceleration is expected to continue.
The Atlanta Fed forecasts that growth will slip in the final three months of 2015 to an annual rate of 1.5 percent. The private forecasting firm Macroeconomic Advisers estimates that the rate will be 1.7 percent.