WASHINGTON (AP) - Americans are feeling confident enough in the economy to go back to a time-honored tradition - taking on a little extra debt.
Consumer borrowing surged in November by $20.4 billion, the Federal Reserve said Monday. That's the largest monthly gain in a decade.
Consumers took out more loans to buy cars and swiped their credit cards frequently to purchase holiday gifts.
The Fed's category that measures credit card debt rose by $5.6 billion, the most since March 2008. Its gauge that tracks auto loans increased $14.8 billion, nearly matching July's gain that was the biggest since February 2005.
The third straight monthly increase in overall borrowing marks a departure from the more thrifty habits practiced during and immediately after the recession, when credit tumbled and the savings rate climbed.
Many Americans are taking on more debt after seeing the unemployment rate drop and the economy improve, albeit modestly.
Consumer confidence is up, holiday sales were solid and the U.S. auto industry is coming off its best two sales months for the year.
In December, employers added 200,000 jobs and the unemployment rate fell to 8.5 percent, the government said Friday.
It was the sixth month in a row that the economy had added at least 100,000 jobs, the longest streak since 2006. And the unemployment rate hasn't been that low in nearly three years.