MADISON, Wis. — With an estimated gain of 318,000 members in July, the industry now has 91.3 million members, according to the latest data from CUNA Mutual Group’s Credit Union Trends Report.

Citing CUNA’s pre-benchmark revision data, CUNA Mutual said the industry has experienced exceptionally strong month-only membership gains so far in 2008. Through the first seven months of the year, membership estimates are up 2.0% versus a same period gain of 813,000 in 2007. The 2008 year-to-date gain is almost double for the entire 2007.

Dave Colby, chief economist with CUNA Mutual, said after reviewing mid-year NCUA call report data, the company anticipates a downward revision as their information shows total membership up by 1.2 million through the first half of 2008. NCUA data also showed 46% of all CUs (3,828 CUs) reported declines in membership in the first six months of 2008. These CUs held roughly 26% of all assets and 28% of total membership.

While Colby is optimistic that credit unions will be able to weather the current financial storms, recovery may still be off in the horizon.

“If we are lucky, the next several months will be the most challenging any of us have ever managed through. If we are not lucky, this will be the most challenging several quarters any of us have ever managed through,” Colby said. “I still believe we are about halfway through this cycle and the most difficult half is coming.”