Total consumer borrowing rose $18.1 billion in August compared to a month earlier with strong gains in credit card debt and the category covering auto and student loans. The increase is the largest amount in three months, according to the Federal Reserve.

The August borrowing gains reflected a $4.2 billion increase in borrowing on credit cards and a $13.9 billion increase in auto and student loans.

The rebound along with a separate report that showed the nation's unemployment rate dropped to 7.8 percent in September are possible good signs for an economy that has been struggling in recent months. Consumer borrowing in July had fallen for the first time in nearly a year.

Four years ago, Americans had $1.03 trillion in credit card debt, a record high. In August, that figure was 17 percent lower, indicating consumers are credit cards much less since the 2008 credit crisis.

Student loan debt during the same period has increased dramatically. The category that includes auto and student loans, along with other loans for items such as boats, has jumped to a level 20.3 percent higher than July 2008.

Much of the rise in student loans is a result of high unemployment, which has led many Americans to go back to school in hopes of improving their education and skills in a more competitive labor market.

In the April-June quarter, student loans totaled $914 billion, according to a recent report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. That is a nearly 50 percent increase from the July-September quarter of 2008.

In a separate quarterly report, the Fed said last month that a jump in the stock market and rising home prices are bringing Americans closer to regaining the wealth they lost in the recession.

Household wealth plummeted to $51.2 trillion in early 2009, having lost nearly a quarter from a pre-recession peak of $67.4 trillion in the fall of 2007. But as of the April-June quarter, household net worth has risen to $62.7 trillion. The net worth figure is the difference between assets and liabilities such as mortgages and other loans

While the Fed's quarterly report covers all household debt, the Fed's monthly consumer credit report covers only loans not backed by real estate, excluding mortgages and home equity loans.

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