Consumer debt was up in the second quarter, with the increase driven by mortgages, not debt on other loans or credit cards.
Total consumer debt in Canada was $1.99 trillion in the quarter — a 2.8% increase compared to the same quarter in 2019, Equifax Canada said in a release on Thursday.
The average debt per person was $73,532 in the quarter, up 2.2% compared to the second quarter of 2019, the consumer reporting agency said.
Equifax attributed the increase to a strong recovery in the housing market, as well as mortgage deferrals.
“Mortgages were supported by a bounce-back in home sales from the pandemic lows in March and April, alongside increased refinancing activity and higher average home prices,” the release said.
Non-mortgage debt (credit cards, car loans, lines of credit) was down as a result of the economic shutdown. Excluding mortgages, the average debt per person was $23,035 in Q2, a decrease of 3% compared to the second quarter of 2019.
However, Equifax noted that credit card spending started to rise in June, and was back to pre-Covid-19 levels by the end of that month for those consumers not using payment deferrals on their cards.
Since February, more than three million Canadians had used Covid-19-related payment deferrals at some point, the agency said. Those age 35 to 44 were the biggest deferral users, at more than 15%, compared to less than 6% for seniors.
For weeks, payment deferrals have been dropping, the agency said.
Still, it warned of potential challenges ahead for some consumers as Covid-19 support measures wane.
The delinquency rate was up in the quarter: the percentage of non-mortgage debt for which consumers missed three or more payments was 1.24% — an increase of roughly 11% compared to Q2 2019.
Equifax said the increase continued a trend from 2019 and didn’t measure the full weight of Covid-19.
“Delinquency rates held up relatively well and do not reflect the sharp rise in job losses thanks to the various support mechanisms,” said Rebecca Oakes, assistant vice-president of advanced analytics at Equifax Canada, in the release.
“One in five people utilizing deferred payments were already financially stressed prior to the start of the pandemic,” she said. “Some of these consumers may find it harder to recover as support mechanisms start to reduce.”