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National Bankruptcy Research Center January 2011 Bankruptcy Filings Report

January bankruptcy filings continue the downward trend in bankruptcy filings since the peak of the crisis last year. Filings were slightly above 90,000, the first time since January of 2010 that monthly filings fell below 100,000. Compared to December, the filings were down by 22%, but that means very little because filings in January usually are the lowest of any month of the year. More significantly, January filings were 9% below filings for last January; on seasonally adjusted basis (that accounts for the normal variation in filings through the course of the last four years) filings in January were 7% lower than filings in December.

Nationwide, filings amounted to about 305 filings per million adults, about one in every 3000 people. Through the course of 2010 the filing rates have become increasingly disparate throughout the country. The highest filing rates are concentrated in the Southwest and a swathe cutting up from the Southeast. Thus, on a population-adjusted basis, Nevada has substantially more than twice the national filing rate. Georgia, California, and Tennessee follow (in that order), all with more than one and a half time the national average. At the other end of the spectrum, eight jurisdictions had filings less than half the national average. Alaska was the lowest at only one-third the national average, followed (in ascending order) by South Dakota, the District of Columbia, South Carolina, Vermont, New York, Wyoming, and North Dakota.

Another noteworthy trend is the sharp disparity in changes in filing rates since last year. Only four states had filings higher this January than last year: Delaware’s were 18% higher, with Idaho, Utah, and California following close behind. At the other end of the distribution, filings in several states fell markedly since the beginning of last year. For example, Vermont, Connecticut, New York, and the District of Columbia all had January filings about 30% less than last year’s.

This analysis was performed on data collected by the National Bankruptcy Research Center (NBKRC) by NBKRC contributor Professor Ronald Mann of the Columbia Law School.