A report breaking down credit card debt by state lists Mississippi as having the nation's highest card delinquency rate in the first quarter ended March 31.

Mississippi's number is at 1.1%, lower by less than a percentage point from the same three months a year ago but still the only state to top 1%, according to credit-reporting agency TransUnion, which issued the report. Mississippi is burdened with high poverty and low average household income, the report states.

Unemployment remains high in the state and many people are struggling to get current on their payments, says Sherry Rainey, Mississippi regional president with CredAbility debt-counseling service. The recession has helped consumers in the state get smarter about credit, but the financial means to apply what that knowledge remains largely elusive, she added.  

Mississippi’s poor rating stands out more as it comes during a time of year when consumers usually try to straighten out their finances, says Ezra Becker, TransUnion’s vice president of research and consulting in the firm’s financial services unit.

“We traditionally see credit card delinquencies and balances decline during the first three months of the year as many people pay down their holiday shopping balances or use their tax refunds to pay off their debts,” Becker wrote while introducing the company’s study.

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