Canadian dollar coins or loonies are pictured in North Vancouver, B.C. Wednesday, May 29, 2019. Statistics Canada says Canadian households owed an average of $1.71 for every dollar of disposable income in the third quarter. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Canadian dollar coins or loonies are pictured in North Vancouver, B.C. Wednesday, May 29, 2019. Statistics Canada says Canadian households owed an average of $1.71 for every dollar of disposable income in the third quarter. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Household debt now $1.77 for every $1 in disposable income, StatCan says

The ratio was still below the $1.81 seen in the fourth quarter of 2019

Canadian households owed an average of $1.71 for every dollar of disposable income in the third quarter, Statistics Canada said on Friday.

In other words, Statistics Canada said, household debt as a percentage of disposable income rose to 170.7 per cent in the third quarter, up from 162.8 per cent in the second quarter.

The ratio was still below the $1.81 seen in the fourth quarter of 2019.

“With more cash and less spending, households were able to pay down some consumer debt. And while there has been a recent pickup, it remains below levels seen earlier this year,” said a client note by Priscilla Thiagamoorthy, economist at BMO Capital Markets.

Statistics Canada’s report said that while credit market debt rose by 1.6 per cent in the third quarter, household disposable incomes fell 3.1 per cent as Canadians recovered from job losses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lower income households tended to have a higher debt to disposable income ratio, the agency has said.

While employment got within 3.7 per cent of its pre-pandemic levels during the quarter, it wasn’t enough to offset the wind-down of government supports, as employment insurance benefits dropped almost 50 per cent in the quarter, the report said.

But with COVID-19 restrictions keeping people close to home, household savings remained high during the quarter at $56.8 billion, down from a record of $90.1 billion in the second quarter, the agency said.

Households also benefited from rebounding mutual fund shares, amid a 3.9 per cent return on the Toronto Stock Exchange over the three-month period. Overall, the net worth of Canadian households rose three per cent to more than $12.3 trillion.

“Wealth distribution tends to be highly unequal across income groups, as a result, recent gains in net worth have disproportionally benefited Canadians who were already better off,” Ksenia Bushmeneva, an economist at TD Economics, in a note to clients about the household wealth report.

“Generally speaking, wealthier individuals experienced larger increases in savings as they were more likely to retain their jobs while also cutting back on discretionary spending such as travel and restaurants which remain largely unavailable.”

Meanwhile, there was a record rise in mortgage borrowing and housing investment hit its highest point on record as the cost of borrowing hovered at all-time lows, StatCan reported. Mortgage debt hit nearly $1.63 trillion as demand for mortgage loans rose to a new high of $28.7 billion.

“Clearly, cash is not always king, and having wealth — (whether) it’s financial or real estate assets — has really paid off this year with equities and real estate prices rallying,” wrote Bushmeneva.

Other key changes tracked in the report included household debt service ratio, which measures how much income goes to paying interest and principal. The household debt service ratio increased to 13.22 per cent from 12.36 per cent, after declining earlier in the year amid debt deferral programs tied to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of these programs wound down at the end of the third quarter, Statistics Canada said.

“Canadian household finances are in better health this year thanks mainly to unprecedented government transfers which lifted overall incomes,” wrote Thiagamoorthy.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 11, 2020.

Anita Balakrishnan, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

From left are Campbell River Food Bank volunteers Darlane Davis, Pat Carville and Donnie Earles. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror.
Keeping food out of the landfill just might save the planet

Food waste is a large contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and it doesn’t have to be

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

(File photo)
Campbell River’s sewer system is at capacity for southernmost residents

City says no more homes can be hooked into the sewer system at the south end at this point

Police executed a search warrant at the Devils Army Clubhouse on Petersen road in Campbell River on August 10, 2017.
Murder trial into 2016 Campbell River killing underway in Victoria

Ricky Alexander is charged with the first-degree murder of John Dillon Brown

A wildfire has started near Gold River, and B.C. Wildfire Service crews are on scene. Photo courtesy Coastal Fire Centre
Wildfire burning in remote area near Gold River

Coastal Fire Centre investigating cause, but confirms it is human-caused

A lone traveler enters the Calgary Airport in Calgary, Alta., Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
VIDEO: Trudeau defends Canada’s travel restrictions as effective but open to doing more

Trudeau said quarantine hotels for international air travellers will continue until at least May 21

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson leaves the assembly with Premier John Horgan after the budget speech Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Paid sick leave for ‘hard-hit’ workers left out of provincial budget: BCGEU

‘For recovery to be equitable it requires supports for workers, not just business,’ says union president Laird Cronk

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

In this image from video, former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin, center, is taken into custody as his attorney, Eric Nelson, left, looks on, after the verdicts were read at Chauvin’s trial for the 2020 death of George Floyd, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Court TV via AP, Pool
George Floyd’s death was ‘wake-up call’ about systemic racism: Trudeau

Derek Chauvin was found guilty Tuesday on all three charges against him

A total of 10 flight exposures have affected the Victoria International Airport in April so far, making it the highest monthly total since the start of the pandemic. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria hits record-breaking number of monthly COVID-19 flight exposures

As of April 21, 10 flight exposures reported for the month

Former University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Rowing Canada sanctions former head coach of B.C. varsity women’s team

Suspension of Barney Williams would be reversed if he complies with certain terms

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

Most Read