Consumer debt delinquencies fell from 1.76 percent 1.63 percent in the third quarter, the lowest level since the American Bankers Association has been collecting data since the 1970s.

Speaking to Financial Advisor after the numbers were released today, ABA Chief Economist Jim Chessen attributed the decline to several factors:

•    A more cautious attitude towards debt on the part of consumers since the recession. “Many people realize they did not have a buffer to withstand a loss of income and many are still worried about losing their jobs,” he said.
•    Tougher consumer loan underwriting standards.
•    The writing off of consumer debts by banks.
•    Steady, though not robust, growth in employment and incomes.

“There are still quite a lot of people who don’t have jobs,” he said.

The composite consumer debt number includes personal, home equity and bank card loans and loans for automobiles, property improvement, mobile homes, recreational vehicles and boats.

While overall delinquencies were down, bank debt cards delinquencies rose from 2.42 percent to 2.55 percent, higher but significantly below the 3.84 percent average for the last 15 years.

“It will be difficult for bank card delinquencies to improve further when they are already at such low levels,” Chessen said.