One of our favorite obscure US economic data releases is the New York Fed’s quarterly cut-up of US household debt numbers. In addition to a variety of interesting data points on the level, growth rate, and composition of household debt, the report also discusses credit performance in very close detail. Among the metrics included are estimates of the number of Americans facing foreclosure, bankruptcy, or collections proceedings. We show these in the chart below.
You’ll notice a huge spike in bankruptcies in the early-2000s, way before the recession. That was driven by changes in bankruptcy law that made the option less attractive for consumers, hence the huge spike and sudden halt in bankruptcy filings. While bankruptcies did rise a bit in Q2 versus Q1 (part of a normal seasonal pattern), both the number of foreclosures and the number of bankruptcies remain extremely low. Even more impressive is the recent collapse in the share of consumers who are facing collection proceedings. As shown, those have swung from nearly 15% in 2012 to a paltry 9% today. That’s a good sign for both the current state of consumer credit performance and the outlook for consumers’ ability to access credit.