Man with smart phone and credit card with online shopping and payment.

Equifax Canada says credit demand was high in the first quarter of the year while the mortgage market saw a significant slowdown.

The agency says in its latest consumer credit report that on average, consumers are spending 21.5% more each month on their credit cards compared with pre-pandemic levels.

Equifax Canada’s vice-president of advanced analytics Rebecca Oakes says in a statement that the first quarter normally brings a drop in non-mortgage debt as consumer spending slows after the holidays.

But this year, Oakes says credit card balances continued to increase for the first quarter.

Missed payments on non-mortgage debts also rose, with 175,000 more consumers missing payments on at least one product, up 18.8% from a year earlier.

Oakes says the higher cost of living and the influx of new credit customers have driven credit card balances to rise by 14.5% year over year.

Equifax says non-mortgage delinquency rates rose by the most in British Columbia and Ontario. And while at the end of 2022 delinquencies were more pronounced among non-mortgage holders, the first quarter of 2023 saw an increasing number of mortgage holders missing payments on non-mortgage debt.

“While interest rates and cost of living remain high, we expect to see more groups of consumers experiencing financial difficulties over the coming months,” says Oakes.

The agency says new mortgage originations dropped 42% in the first quarter compared with a year ago, the lowest volume since 2014. The average loan amount was down 13.9% year over year but only 2.9% from the previous quarter, which Equifax says suggests a potential end to the pricing correction in the housing market.