Thursday, April 7, 2011

February bankruptcy totals fall slightly from 2010 totals

The bankruptcy courts have not yet released March data for the the Colorado district, but some preliminary national data on bankruptcies has been released.

According to the National Bankruptcy Research Center:
March Filings Down From 2010: March bankruptcy filings were the highest in eleven months – 145,000 (up from 103,000 in February and only 93,000 in January). But there is no reason to think this presages a return to the high filing rates of 2008 and 2009. March is traditionally the highest filing month of the year (presumably in part because bankrupts use their tax refunds to pay attorney fees and filing costs). That relatively high number takes on a less alarming perspective when we notice that this year’s March filings were down 3% compared to last March. More broadly, filings for the first quarter of 2010 were down 6% from the first quarter of 2010. Looking over an even broader time period: for four years in a row, every month’s filings were higher than the filings for the same month in the previous year, but we have now had three consecutive months in which filings were down from the previous year. The worst is behind us.

Notably, the latest NBKRC report lists Adams County as one of the urban areas with the highest filings rate with 1346 filings per million adults. The national average is 622 filings per million adults.

The full report is not available at no charge. We'll update March's Colorado foreclosure totals once they are made available by the US courts.

February Bankruptcies

In Colorado during February, total bankruptcy cases filed fell 7.5 percent to 2,100 cases. During February 2010, 2,271 cases were filed. The negative year-over-year change marks only the second time in at least four years that a monthly bankruptcy total has been lower than the same month one year earlier. December 2010's bankruptcy case total was also down from the previous year when cases fell from 2,373 in December 2009 to 2,308 during December 2010.

The first chart shows the year-over-year changes in bankruptcy case filings since January 2007:

The appearance of some small declines in the year-over-year comparisons may signal that consumers are beginning to get a handle on consumer debt more than three years after the beginning of the national 2007-2009 recession. The slow decline in the magnitude of year-over-year changes may also signal some stability in household incomes and budgets following a period of increasing insolvency.

In general, however, bankruptcy filings have grown since 2006 following the implementation of the 2005 Bankruptcy Act (discussed here).

The large spike in 2005 preceded the implementation of the new bankruptcy rules. Filings totals have now returned to the levels experienced just prior to the final run-up in cases in 2005.