COLUMBUS, Ohio (1/8/10)--Total auto lending market share at Ohio credit unions increased to a record 18.2% from September 2008 to September 2009 despite a decline in vehicle sales, said the Ohio Credit Union League. Similarly, first mortgage originations rose 51.9% during the period, totaling $1.37 billion in 2009 versus $904 million in 2008. Credit union membership also grew with more than 53,000 Ohioans joining credit unions. Capital levels at Ohio credit unions remain high at 11.9% of assets, better than capital at Ohio banks and thrifts, and overall U.S. credit unions and banks, the league said. “This is an unprecedented time for credit unions in the state of Ohio,” said Paul Mercer, league president. “Credit unions have money to lend despite the difficult economy, and the response from consumers has been positive, with growth in auto lending, mortgages, and member business lending. We look to continue these trends and be a partner to our members and the communities we serve as we all strive for economic recovery.” During the 12-month period, credit unions witnessed an overall loan growth of 6.64%, with auto loan balances increasing 11.9% and first mortgage balances up 3.9%. Total delinquencies rose to 1.37% in September, up from 1.21% the previous year. While delinquencies are on the rise, they remain below the national credit union average of 1.69% through September, the league said. Despite restrictions imposed by federal law, credit union member business lending (MBL) grew 11.2% to $333 million in outstanding loan balances. The 90 Ohio credit unions that provide MBL reported an average delinquency rate of 3.65%, which is above the national average but down from the previous June rate of 3.84%. Federal law currently caps credit unions’ business lending at 12.25% of assets; however, legislation pending in Congress would raise the cap to 25%. The Credit Union National Association reported that lifting the cap could provide $10 billion in new small business loans and at least 108,000 new jobs nationwide. The number of Ohio credit union members grew by 53,183 from September 2008 to September 2009--to more than 2.65 million. The average credit union in the state has 6,685 members, $50.15 million in assets, and $31.4 million in loans. Ohio credit unions employ more than 6,800 people or staffers and contribute nearly $140 million in compensation to employees annually, according to the league’s most recent quarterly financial report.