MADISON, Wis. — Even counting certain revisions to semi-annual benchmark data, the industry’s membership count still managed to climb to an estimated 90 million as of the end of August.That’s according to the latest CUNA Mutual Group’s Credit Union Trends Report. Membership rose by an estimated 288,000 in August bringing the year-to-date gain up to 1.9 million. Given that annual gains have averaged 1.1 million over the past three years, results through the first eight months of 2007 are “exceptional,” according to the report.Still, while the depth of relationship measures, which are tied mainly to growth in savings and loans per member, have caused a “membership surge,” they are only contributing modestly to overall credit union growth results.“We caution–expect gains to slow,” said Dave Colby, chief economist with CUNA Mutual. “Over the past three years, 92% of all membership gains occurred in the first eight months of the year.”Over the past twelve months, the membership count was up by almost 2.0 million, according to the report. When compared to annual gains since 2003, 2007 has shaped up to be a stronger year for membership growth.Meanwhile, CUNA’s semi-annual benchmark revisions surprisingly added 34 credit unions back into the count for data through July 2007. The net result was sharply lower year-over-year and YTD market contraction. Post-benchmark results through August now show 8,512 credit unions. On an YTD basis, the credit union count is down by 150 institutions. This is well below the contraction rates of the previous few years.The year-over-year decline has now slipped to 269 credit unions and is also significantly below recent trends.“There is little evidence to explain the dramatic slowdown in market consolidation,” Colby said. “We see economic, demographic, regulatory and competitive market forces exerting more pressure on credit unions, especially smaller institutions.”If current trends continue, Colby pointed out that market consolidation will only be 266 CUs in 2007, well below historical averages and CUNA Mutual’s forecast.–[email protected]

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