The rate at which credit card holders fell behind on their payments was far worse in the second quarter than it was last year, but did improve sharply from the alarming level seen in the first three months of 2009.
The shift since the first quarter shows that consumers handled their credit better even as job losses mounted and the recession deepened, according to credit reporting agency TransUnion.
TransUnion said the rate of bank-issued credit card payments that were 90 days or more past due shot up to 1.17 percent for the three months ended in June, from 1.04 percent in the 2008 period.
But the figure was down significantly from the first quarter of this year, when 1.32 percent of card holders were three months or more behind on the payments. That improvement came despite soaring unemployment and other economic pressures.
Long-term data shows that second-quarter payments are more likely to be made on time than payments in the first quarter. Typically, consumers use tax refunds or salary bonuses to pay off debt, often after running up card balances during the holidays.
But while a decrease in delinquencies in the second quarter from the first isn't unusual on a historical basis, it does mark the first improvement in a year. Moreover, the figures show less impact from the weak economy than expected.
"What's interesting about this year's decrease in the second quarter is we're still in a recession," said Ezra Becker, director of consulting and strategy in TransUnion's financial services group.
In addition to higher unemployment — the jobless rate reached 10.6 percent in June — many people who still had jobs earned less, as employers cut back on hours, overtime and bonuses.