Albertans drowning in debt

Average debt per Canadian consumer, including mortgages, reached $71,300 in the first quarter of 2019: Equifax

Drowning in debt

Average Alberta debt levels – excluding mortgages – continue to be the highest in Canada and rising, according to the latest Equifax Canada report.

The report said the average debt in the first quarter of this year in the province rose by 3.4 per cent from a year ago to $29,117. At the same time, the delinquency rate jumped 4.3 per cent to 1.41 per cent.

In Edmonton, the average debt for consumers excluding mortgages was up 4.7 per cent to $28,374, while the delinquency rate of 1.49 per cent rose by 2.2 per cent.

In Calgary, the average debt rose by 2.1 per cent year over year to $29,905, while the delinquency rate soared by eight per cent to 1.26 per cent.

And in Fort McMurray, average debt increased year over year 3.3 per cent to $39,007. The delinquency rate climbed by eight per cent to 1.86 per cent.

The report said “the health of the consumer credit market shows Canadians remained highly reliant on debt to start 2019.”

Average debt per Canadian consumer (including mortgages) reached $71,300 in the first quarter of 2019, an increase of 2.6 per cent over the same period last year. The proportion of Canadians posting higher credit balances compared to the previous year also reached a seasonal peak of 33.9 per cent, up significantly from 2018, said the report.

It added that total consumer debt including mortgages increased to $1.907 trillion in the first quarter, compared to $1.823 trillion in the first quarter of 2018 (+4.3 per cent). Mortgage growth has been slowing since late 2017, with total outstanding debt up 4.0 per cent to $1,278 trillion. Non-mortgage debt was up 4.9 per cent compared to 2018, as longer terms on auto and bank loans have consumers paying down their balances slower.

“Consumers were opening fewer new credit products in early 2019, but they certainly weren’t curtailing the use of their existing credit,” said Bill Johnston, vice-president of data and analytics at Equifax Canada, in a news release.

“Loans are taking longer to pay down and credit card use is on the rise. The headline numbers for non-mortgage debt had been driven by population growth for the past 18 months, but it was increased usage that drove the rise in credit during the first quarter of this year.”

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