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The year 2009 will be remembered as a period of remarkable change for the consumer credit and payment markets. A year ago it was still unclear how deep the current recession would be. Today, we recognize that it is one of the worst since the Second World War. The most telling statistic is a national unemployment rate that is hovering around 10 percent. With so many consumers out of work and real estate markets continuing to struggle, it is not surprising to observe a dramatic rise in delinquencies on loans and, now, bankruptcy filings. The retrenchment in consumer spending earlier this year was so great that a noticeable change could be seen in the volume and composition of consumer transactions.
As always, the Payment Cards Center attempts to respond to the times. In this edition of Update, you will read about many examples of our responses, including three conferences organized around important questions raised by the current crisis: (1) What mortgage and real estate data do we need in order to identify at-risk markets or financial institutions and to mitigate the effects of falling home prices? (2) What alternatives to bankruptcy are available to consumers and do they work? and (3) What can the latest and best economic research tell us about the nature of the current crisis and how to avoid future crises?
This summer we introduced a new publication, PCC Note. This is a very short paper on a specific topic that can be produced in response to very recent developments. Industry Specialist Philip Keitel wrote our first Note, which reviews a new set of regulations, established in this summer's Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act, that will apply to prepaid gift cards. Expect to see many new innovations and papers from the PCC over the coming months.
Finally, there have also been a number of changes within the center itself. In the previous issue, we announced the transition to a new director and I introduced myself to you. Since then, our very capable research assistant Christine Lemmon has left us for graduate school. Jamey van Opstal, a recent graduate of Haverford College, has taken her place. We also have a new industry specialist, Stephanie Wilshusen, who joins us after working many years at the Credit Research Center at Georgetown University. Finally, Julia Cheney has been promoted to senior specialist in order to better assist me in developing the center's agenda and maintaining the high quality and timeliness of our work.