With Stronger Credit, Consumers Avoid Personal 'Fiscal Cliff', Remain Out of Financial Distress, Finds CredAbility Consumer Distress Index

Orlando, Tampa-St. Petersburg Remain Top Two Most Distressed MSAs

ATLANTA, Nov. 15, 2012 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- U.S. households' ability to manage credit wisely continued to be their financial linchpin in 2012's third quarter, helping consumers stay out of financial distress for the second consecutive quarter. The number of bankruptcies filed nationwide dropped by 8 percent and delinquency rates continued to fall on credit cards. It is the first time since early 2008 that the average U.S. households' finances have been out of financial distress for two consecutive quarters and may set the stage for strong holiday spending.

At the local level, consumers in Orlando and Tampa-St. Petersburg continued to be the most financially distressed households among the 30 largest MSAs in the nation, while those in Washington, D.C., Minneapolis-St. Paul and Boston remained the strongest. However, households in some large Midwest and Northeast cities weakened in the past quarter, with those in Chicago, Las Vegas, Detroit, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh showing the largest drops in financial strength.

These are the latest findings of the CredAbility Consumer Distress Index. Published by CredAbility, one of the nation's leading nonprofit credit counseling and education agencies, the quarterly index tracks the financial condition of the average U.S. household by measuring five categories: employment, housing, credit, how families manage household budgets and net worth. The index has a national score and rankings of all 50 states and the 77 of the largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs).

A score below 70 indicates a state of financial distress. U.S. households scored 70.5 in the third quarter on the Index's 100-point scale, down slightly from 71.3 in the second quarter. However, the 2012 third quarter score is up nearly four points from the year-ago period.

"While our national leaders are negotiating to improve our country's financial condition, most households have already made the tough spending choices in recent quarters to avoid their own 'fiscal cliff'," said Mark Cole, executive vice president for CredAbility. "For the first time in four years, the average U.S. household is able to spend during the holiday season without taking on new debt or creating a major financial problem."

People can take a new test to measure their own level of financial health or distress at www.CredAbility.org/ConsumerDistressIndex. The test covers employment, housing, credit, household budget management and net worth, so anyone taking the test will receive a score based on the same model as the national index.

Despite the 70.5 national score, the index showed small declines in the employment, housing, household budget and net worth categories.
On the employment front, the number of people working part-time, but seeking full-time employment rose by nearly 400,000 people to 8.6 million during the quarter, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The jump in part-time workers seeking full-time employment increases the index's measure of unemployment.

Despite rising housing prices in many markets, the index found that the nation's mortgage delinquency rate increased, from 6.55 percent to 7.13 percent. The index also determined that households nationwide spent slightly more of their incomes on housing, which hurts their ability to live a financially healthy lifestyle.

At the MSA level, all but three of the 77 markets ranked by CredAbility posted year-over-year increases in index scores. The three exceptions are in upstate New York: Buffalo-Niagara Falls, Albany and Rochester. Among the 30 largest MSAs, more than half (17) remain in distress. Two markets, Baltimore and St. Louis, emerged from distress in the most recent quarter.

Several large MSAs also showed declines in their Distress Index scores during the quarter. Chicago fell 1.5 points; Las Vegas 1.4 points; Philadelphia and Detroit 1.3 points each and Pittsburgh 1.2 points. However, households in several mid-sized MSAs had improved scores. These cities included Nashville, which rose 2.2 points; Akron, 1.8; 1.4; Greenville, S.C., 1.25 and Indianapolis, 1 point.

At the state level, 17 states scored below 70, up from 15 in the second quarter, with Illinois and Louisiana among those falling into distress. Below are the third quarter scores for the 30 largest MSAs. For the full list of all 77 MSAs and all 50 states, please visit www.CredAbility.org/ConsumerDistressIndex.

2012 third quarter CredAbility Consumer Distress Index data by MSA:

  Q3 2012 Q2 2012 Q1 2012 Q4 2011 Q3 2011
National   70.48  71.25  69.94  67.60  66.69
 Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL     59.71  59.47  58.31  57.29  57.41
 Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL         60.74  60.13  59.51  58.44  57.95
 Las Vegas-Paradise, NV  60.75  62.10  61.14  59.42  58.45
 Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA   60.81  60.15  59.69  59.08   57.74
 Detroit-Warren-Livonia, MI  62.34  63.69  61.70  61.55  60.60
 Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL      62.52  63.09  63.08  60.68  59.24
 Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Roseville, CA  64.74  64.66  63.33  62.34  61.68
 Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL-IN-WI  65.65  67.10  66.33  64.99  64.19
 Los Angeles-Long Beach- Santa Ana, CA  66.40  66.36  64.97  64.07  63.15
 Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA  66.76  66.40  64.46  63.59  63.63
 Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD  67.06  68.43  67.28  66.38  65.81
 San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA  67.57  67.10  65.78  64.81  64.07
 Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA  68.27  69.16  67.68  66.89  66.32
 Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, AZ  68.29  68.93  65.19  64.21   63.55
 Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor, OH  68.43  68.00  66.05  66.42  65.72
 Cincinnati-Middletown, OH-KY-IN  69.32  69.93  67.66  66.09  65.99
 Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA  69.65  69.87  68.53  68.27  67.33
 Baltimore-Towson, MD  70.46  69.83  68.33  69.03  67.78
 St. Louis, MO-IL  70.63  69.01  66.62  65.80  67.34
 Kansas City, MO-KS  70.75  71.55  70.51  68.96  67.89
 Pittsburgh, PA  70.77  71.92  70.41  70.57  69.85
 New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA  70.80  71.30  70.66  70.25  69.86
 San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA  70.84  70.47  69.10  67.47  66.70
 San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX  71.69  70.61  69.41  68.71  68.53
 Denver-Aurora-Broomfield, CO  72.64  72.80  71.35  70.58  70.28
 Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX  73.49  73.41  71.86  70.49  69.08
 Houston-Sugar Land-Bayton, TX  73.61  72.36  71.01  69.47  68.23
 Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH  76.17  77.42  75.18  74.43  73.72
 Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI  76.70  76.97  74.48  74.70  73.06
 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV          

About the CredAbility Consumer Distress Index

Published quarterly, the CredAbility Consumer Distress Index uses a proprietary methodology that draws upon multiple data sets. Employment, housing, credit, household budget and net worth information is supplemented with data collected by CredAbility, which serves more than 440,000 financially distressed individuals each year.

About CredAbility

CredAbility is one of the leading nonprofit credit counseling and education agencies in the United States, serving clients in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, in both English and Spanish. In addition to providing counseling via telephone and internet, CredAbility operates a network of offices across the southeast.
Founded in 1964, CredAbility is a family of Consumer Credit Counseling Service agencies that includes CCCS of Greater Atlanta, CCCS of Central Florida and the Florida Gulf Coast, CCCS of Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast, CCCS of East Tennessee, CCCS of Central Mississippi and CCCS of Upstate South Carolina.

The nonprofit agency is accredited by the Council on Accreditation and is a member of the Better Business Bureau and the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC). Governed by a community-based board of directors, CredAbility is funded by creditors, clients, individual donors and grants from foundations, businesses and government agencies. Service is provided 24/7 by phone at 800.251.2227 and online at www.CredAbility.org.

The CredAbility logo is available at http://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/prs/?pkgid=11910



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