Employment boosted credit scores to 10-year high, Experian finds

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The average VantageScore last year was higher than it has been since 2007 due to improved hiring and despite stagnant wages that aren't keeping pace with rising debt levels.

VantageScores, an Experian-affiliated alternative to the FICO credit scores used in mortgage underwriting, averaged 675 last year, according to Experian's annual State of Credit report. VantageScores averaged 673 the previous year and 679 in 2007.

"With employment and consumer confidence on the rise, we've made great progress as a country since the recession," said Michele Ranieri, vice president of analytics and new business development at Experian, in a press release.

But there also is strain on consumers and the economy from an increasing amount of non-mortgage debt and "stubbornly flat" wages, according to the report.

The average consumer in 2017 had more than $200,000 in mortgage debt as well as at least three credit cards with a total balance of more than $6,000, and at least two cards from retail stores with a total balance of more than $1,800.

Meanwhile, the gap between the average FICO credit score of home mortgage borrowers and the average consumer is at its widest level in 10 years.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency, which serves as the conservator and regulators of the government-related entities that dominate the secondary market for home loans, is seeking input on whether Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should upgrade their credit score models.

If the government-sponsored enterprises do update their models, they could use a newer version of either the FICO score or the VantageScore models, or both.

VantageScore models and FICO scores generally use the same 300-850 scale to assess credit, with higher scores indicating a better ability to repay.

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