Americans Can't Keep Their Credit Cards in Their Pockets

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The economy is doing better, but not as great as the numbers initially make it seem. That's the clear common theme between the Department of Labor's May jobs report and the newest figures regarding consumer credit card debt -- an indicator of consumer spending habits and household financial health.

While the labor report revealed an addition of 217,000 jobs to the U.S. economy in May, ostensibly bringing employment back above pre-recession record levels, an estimated 7 million more positions are needed to account for population growth and complete the turnaround. And while U.S. consumers paid down roughly $32.5 billion in outstanding credit card debt during the first quarter of 2014, that represents a 1% decline relative to Q1 2013 and the continued deterioration of credit card habits as Great Recession lessons fade with time.

Consumers historically pay off a lot of credit card debt during the first quarter of the year -- with tax refunds, annual salary bonuses, and New Year's resolutions fueling their efforts. But last year's first-quarter pay-down was 4% smaller than in 2012, and we ended 2013 having incurred 6% more debt overall. This year's first-quarter pay-down was even smaller still. As a result, CardHub projects that we will end 2014 with a $41.9 billion net increase in credit card debt -- 8% more than we racked up last year and a 14% increase relative to 2012.

So just as the employment sector still has far to go, consumers must strive to remember the corrosive impact of debt on household finances during the recession and work to get out from under its influence before the burden becomes unbearable again.

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The article Americans Can't Keep Their Credit Cards in Their Pockets originally appeared on

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