US households showed signs of increasing financial stress in the first quarter, with credit card balances not declining in the way they typically do at the start of the year and delinquencies rising for most types of consumer loans.
Households added $148 billion in overall debt, bringing the total to $17.05 trillion, according to a report released by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York on Monday. Balances are now $2.9 trillion higher than just before the pandemic.
Consumers typically build up more credit-card debt at the end of the year, during the holiday season, and then reduce those balances at the start of the following year, sometimes with the help of tax refunds. But for the first time in 20 years, that wasn’t the case this year, suggesting some households are under strain from higher prices and may be relying on credit cards to maintain their spending.