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Bankruptcy Filings for 2017 -- Let's Say 767,000

posted by Bob Lawless

2016 Annual Filings ChartAccording to Epiq Systems, there were 771, 894 total U.S. bankruptcy filings in 2016, a decline of 5.8% from 2015. The overall annual decline in 2015 was 10.0% and was 11.8% in 2014.  As I noted yesterday, the rate of decrease is decreasing.

At the beginning of 2016, I projected 780,000 filings for the year. That forecast was only 1.0% off. Pride goeth before a fall. Here is my thinking for 2017.

I use two models, one crude and one somewhat more sophisticated. The crude model projects filing for the coming year based on the last six months in the previous calendar year. The somewhat more sophisticated model uses regression techniques that account for consumer credit outstanding and national personal income.

The last six months of 2014 and 2015 has bankruptcy filings that were 52.6% and 53.4% of total filings for the following year. That metric would predict 752,000 - 765,000 filings for 2017. The regression model predicts 774,507 filings for 2017. If I correct for an anomaly in the November and December 2015 data, the regression model comes out closer to 776,000 filings. Extrapolating from the last six months is probably a little low given filing trends, and the regression model for some reason overpredicts the summer months and is a probably a little high.

The midpoint of all these predictions is probably the most reliable. That number is around 767,000, which I will set as my prediction for U.S. bankruptcy filings in the coming year. The usual disclaimers apply (unless I am right).


Bob, you are awesome. How about your thoughts on chapter selection. Are Chapter 13 cases trending up or down? Do you see any patterns (old or new) in the chapter choice stats? Thanks for all the good work you do.

Bob, I seriously had a bad dream last night in which I was trying to draw a whiteboard size graph of historic bankruptcy filings from 1978 to present and could not get the shape of the curve accurate. Please rescue me!

Then, you won't like this: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/01/15/us/politics/you-draw-obama-legacy.html.

It's actually pretty cool. I had just been looking at the unemployment figures for this post so I nailed that one. The rest, not so much.

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