Overall consumer borrowing rose 3% to $2.58 trillion in June compared with May as a result of increases in auto and student loans. The total is just below the record high reached in July 2008, according to a Federal Reserve report.
Consumers, however, cut back on credit card use in June, a possible sign that high unemployment and slow growth has made consumers cautious about spending. Revolving debt, primarily credit card debt, fell 5% to $864.6 billion, just 1.6% above the post-recession low reached in April 2011. Consumers have been relying less on credit cards since the start of the financial crisis in 2008.
Non-revolving debt, the category that includes auto and student loans, increased 7% to $1.71 trillion. The Federal Reserve's report excludes mortgages, home equity loans and other loans tied to real estate.
Consistent gains in student loans have pushed borrowing back to near-record levels. Total student loan debt has jumped 54% since mid-2008 to $902 billion as of March this year, according to the report.
That increase partly reflects high unemployment, which in turn has led many to seek better education and skills in the competitive labor market.
A Commerce Department report last week showed that consumer spending was unchanged in June even as incomes rose at the fastest pace in three months.
The flat spending pace likely was because hiring has been weak and confidence low. Employers added 163,000 jobs in July, the most in five months. But hiring for most of this year hasn't been enough to lower the unemployment rate.
Consumer confidence improved in July for the first time in five months, according to the Conference Board, but it remains far below healthy levels.