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WASHINGTON — This year continued a 10-year downturn trend in membership growth but the latter half of 2006 has shown some momentum that could carry over into 2007. It looked promising in January when 158,000 members joined credit unions, according to CUNA Mutual Group’s Credit Union Trends Report for that month. January also experienced its first dip below the 10,000 mark for credit unions with the loss of 36 during that month. Industry experts remained firm to their forecasts of conservative growth for 2006 and their predictions were pretty much dead on. Membership growth has hovered between 1% and 2.5% over the past few years, according to CUNA. The latest data through October shows movement has been 2%. Recent numbers show 88.7 million members and 8,737 credit unions. “Membership has been on a long, sliding path for the past decade,” said Bill Hampel, CUNA senior vice president, research and policy analysis department, and chief economist. “We’ve seen a little bit of a pickup in 2006. Even if we don’t have membership growth for the rest of the year, we have 2%.”

In 2005, credit unions added 1.5 million members to their rosters while 2006 could see an additional 1.4 million. At the end of March, membership climbed to 87.9 million and through the first quarter of 2006, an estimated 900,000 members joined credit unions, according to CUNA Mutual.

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