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Bankruptcy Filings Holding Steady for the First Half of 2017

posted by Bob Lawless

2017 Projected Filings from JuneUsing data from Epiq Systems, we appear to be on track for 774,000 bankruptcy filings for the 2017 calendar year. That would basically be the same rate of filings as in 2016 when total filings were just under 772,000. This calculation comes from a simple extrapolation. There were just under 400,000 bankruptcy filings for the first six months of this year. To get an estimate of what filings will be for the entire year, we cannot simply double the six-month figure because bankruptcy filings tend to be higher in the first part of a year. In the past two years, the first six calendar months have seen 51.6% of the total filings for the year. Thus, just under 400,000 filings for the first six months of a calendar year would imply about 774,000 filings for the entire year.

As the table to the right shows, bankruptcy filings will be flat this year after six years of decline. Bankruptcy filing rates remain at historic lows. The current bankruptcy filing rate is 2.38 per 1,000 persons. Ignoring the statistical gyrations around the passage of the 2005 bankruptcy law, we have to go back to the late 1980s to see filing rates this low. Even in those statistical gyrations -- when filers surged into the bankruptcy courts to beat the law's effective date and then new filings plummeted -- the 12-month average filing rate never fell below 1.97 per 1,000 persons.

Back in January, I predicted 767,000 bankruptcy filings for the year. My margin of error then would be less than 1.0%. I don't like to point that out just to show I was right . . . . OK, yes I do. But, there is also half the year left, and I am not right yet. Committing to reviewing one's forecasts hopefully makes them better in the first place. There will be a time when my forecast is wrong, but for now the model seems to be working.


We're also seeing a slowdown in business bankruptcy filings in 2017. Oil and gas activity has slowed significantly. Retail and healthcare seem to be the areas where activity continues at a higher than normal pace.

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