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Americans’ credit profiles have recovered extensively since the recession, with the average credit score now closing in on a pre-crisis benchmark.

According to Experian’s recently released State of Credit report, the average credit score in the U.S. is 673, six points shy of 679, the average in 2007. The tapering gap represents healthier conditions for housing, which is experiencing pent-up demand as creditworthiness continues to come up short of lender standards.

“We are seeing the positive effects of economic recovery, with the rise in income and low unemployment reflected in how Americans are managing their credit,” said Michele Raneri, vice president of Analytics and New Business Development at Experian in a statement on the report. “All credit indicators suggest consumers are not as ‘credit stressed.’ Credit card balances and average debt are up, while utilization rates remained consistent at 30 percent.”

The Midwest showed the strongest credit improvement, according to the report—the metropolitan area with the highest average credit score in the nation was Mankato, Minn., at 708. Metro areas in Minnesota took the top three spots in the report’s ranking: Rochester in second, also at 708, and Minneapolis in third at 707. Completing the top 10 were Green Bay, Wis. (704), Wausau, Wis. (704), Duluth, Minn. (703), Sioux Falls, S.D. (703), La Crosse, Wis. (703), Fargo, N.D. (703), and Madison, Wis. (702).

The Midwest has become a hotbed of housing activity, as millennials continue to migrate from coastal centers inward in search of a more affordable lifestyle—in fact, the Midwest was recently highlighted in realtor.com®’s forecast as a market to watch in 2017.

Swaths of the South and metropolitan areas in California comprised the bottom of the report’s ranking, with Greenwood, Miss. the lowest at 622, though posting an improvement from 612 in 2015. The remaining bottom 10: Albany, Ga. (624), Harlingen, Texas (631), Riverside, Calif. (632), Laredo, Texas (635), Monroe, La. (639), Alexandria, La. (639), Bakersfield, Calif. (639), Corpus Christi, Texas (639), and Shreveport, La. (640).

“When comparing the cities with the highest credit scores and those with the lowest, we definitely see similar trends,” said Raneri. “Cities with higher credit scores have lower utilization rates, late payments and balances, while those with lower scores have just the opposite.”

Credit conditions overall, according to the report, are fitter than they were just one year ago—yet another sign of a strengthening economy.

Source: Experian

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