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National Bankruptcy Research Center January 2012 Bankruptcy Filings Report

Bankruptcy filings in January fell steeply, from 101,000 in December to only 81,000 in January. To be sure, January is traditionally the lowest filing month of the year. But by any measure total filings were remarkably low: they were down 12% from last January, and indeed present the lowest monthly total since March of 2008. The drop in Chapter 7 filings is particularly noteworthy. There were only 54,000 Chapter 7 filings in January, down 14% from last January; Chapter 13 filings were down only 9%.

Nationwide, January filings amounted to about 350 filings per million adults, or one in every 3000. As always, national disparities show that this really is an average – reflecting starkly higher and lower filing rates across the country. The data include good news for Nevada: for the first time in more than two years, Nevada does not have the highest filing rate in the country. This month that dubious distinction falls to Tennessee. With a 6% increase since last January, Tennessee jumped slightly ahead of Nevada at about 640 filings/thousand. Nevada is down a remarkable 20% since last year (with a 34% drop in the largely real-estate related filings under Chapter 13). Close behind, all at more than 50% above the national average, are Georgia, Utah, and California. At the other end of the spectrum, eleven jurisdictions have filings less than half the national average. The lowest are Washington, D.C., Alaska, and Wyoming (all at about one-third of the national average).

One of the most interesting features of the data this month is the starkly differing results coming out of the Nation’s largest states. California has suffered badly from the crisis, but finally seems to be recovering: January filings are down 18% from last year (falling quite a bit more than the national average), but still are at 525/million, about 50% above the national average. New York, however closely associated with the financial crisis, has been largely immune from the increases in bankruptcy filings, and its filings are only 180/million, a bit more than half the national average, but they have climbed in recent months, and are up seven percent from last year. Finally, Texas remains largely on the sidelines of the crisis; its filing rate of 175/million is almost exactly half the national average and reflects a drop of 15% from last January.

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.