Nearly nine years after the collapse of the housing bubble, U.S. household debt has finally hit a new all-time high, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported Wednesday.
"This record debt level is neither a reason to celebrate nor a cause for alarm," said Donghoon Lee, research officer at the New York Fed.
Today's family debt looks much different than it did in 2008, when the country fell into recession thanks to subprime home loans.
In fact, mortgage debt still remains below its 2008 high. Auto and student loans make up a bigger share of total debts.
The New York Fed's data, based on anonymized information from the credit agency Equifax, shows that the average credit score for new home loans is higher than in 2008 and still rising. Delinquencies and foreclosures are down — today, just 1.7 percent of mortgage debt is 90 days late, compared to nearly 9 percent during the worst of the crisis.
Sustainable borrowing growth is viewed as a good thing, as it means that families are borrowing for spending on consumer items and major purchases such as houses and cars.
One cause for concern, though, is the historic run-up in student debt.
Total student debt rose to $1.3 trillion in the first quarter, according to Wednesday's report. At 11 percent, student loan delinquency remains extraordinarily high, and student borrowers keep falling behind at a high rate. Last month, New York Fed president William Dudley expressed concern that large student debts could be holding borrowers back from major life goals and harming the economy, although he also highlighted research showing that college attendance, even with debt, means higher homeownership.