Mounting job losses continued taking their toll on consumer finances during the fourth quarter of 2008, according to data released Thursday by the American Bankers Association. The group said that a composite index tracking eight closed-end installment loan cateogories, rose 32 basis points to a record 3.22 percent of accounts on a seasonally-adjusted basis. The ABA has tracked consumer loan categories since the mid 1970s. “The wheels just fell off the economy in the fourth quarter of 2008,” ABA James Chessen said. “The amount of job losses dealt the economy a severe shock, and that continues to be the biggest driver for delinquencies.” The U.S. economy lost nearly three million jobs in 2008, with nearly two million of them occurring in the fourth quarter. “As the economy continues to shed jobs, it is unlikely that delinquencies will see any improvements this year,” Chessen suggested. Home equity loan delinquencies rose 40 basis points to 3.03 percent of accounts, setting a new record. Home equity lines of credit delinquencies also reached a new record, rising 31 basis points to 1.46 percent, the ABA said. Every category saw rising delinquencies except mobile home loans. “Clearly, we are seeing a rapid economic decline in all regions, and in most business sectors,” Chessen said. “It’s a steeper downslide than in previous recessions because consumers are saving more and spending less.” Credit card delinquencies also increased from 4.20 percent to 4.52 percent, but still remain near the four year average of 4.47 percent. Chessen opined that the ability of card holders to adjust their monthly payments -- unlike other loans with fixed payments -- has helped keep credit card delinquencies relatively stable. Write to Paul Jackson at