Credit unions will remain healthy during the next year, as memberships continue to grow, CUNA Mutual Group Chief Economist Steve Rick predicted Tuesday during the 2016 Virtual Discovery Conference. Based on recent trends, credit union membership is expected to increase 3.8 percent this year, slowing somewhat to 3.3 percent next year, Rick said. “Our membership growth has been on a tear,” Rick said.

In addition to membership growth, credit unions are predicted to show stronger balance sheets, but weaker income statements in 2017. The economy is expected to grow 2.4 percent as well — faster than the 1.6 percent this year.  That growth will be fueled in part by growth in home construction, which is expected to increase by 6 percent.

Unemployment is expected to fall to 4.7 percent, which Rick said is basically considered full employment. Rick said that low unemployment will mean that credit unions could have problems hiring and keeping employees. The good news, Rick reports, is that people will be purchasing more vehicles.

Rick also predicted that the Federal Reserve will increase interest rates a quarter of a percent before the end of the year, followed by three increases during 2017 — resulting in about a 1 percent increase. For more on 2017, read CUTimes.