During the first half of 2010, bankruptcy filings for individuals in Connecticut jumped by 24 percent compared to a year ago. In fact, personal bankruptcies accounted for 89 percent of all bankruptcies tracked by the Warren Group, a real estate data firm in Boston, from January to June.
In raw numbers, that’s nearly 5,000 claims compared to 4,000 last July. Only New Haven County saw a slight dip in personal bankruptcies: 755 compared to 771.
"Bankruptcy filings are considered a lagging indicator, and these bankruptcy filings reflect earlier economic conditions," said Timothy Warren in the report.
Put another way: The first half of this year was supposed to be a time when the economy was getting better – when consumer confidence was rising, when housing sales were going up, when jobs were being added to the economy.
Now consumer confidence is falling, because more people are out of work for more than six months. Homes sales have slumped, because the federal government has stopped subsidizing them. And those jobs? They mostly came from positions filled by the U.S. Census Bureau.
And with money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, aka the stimulus program, about to run out, many are already bracing for a so-called double-dip recession. Yet another view: In July 2009, the unemployment rate in Connecticut was 8.5 percent. Now it’s 8.8. No surprise: As unemployment goes, so goes personal bankruptcy.
And remember – bankruptcy filings are a lagging indicator. What happens during the next six months, July through December, won’t be fully understood until the end of the year. So with unemployment continuing to rise as more people stop looking for work altogether (625,000 nationally in June), personal bankruptcies in the last half of 2010 may be a good deal worse than they were in the first half.
At the same time, the number of businesses closing has dropped by 20 percent in the first half of 2010, according to the state Secretary of State’s office. A new report released last week shows 5,600 businesses dissolved compared to 6,900 in the same period last year. Some 13,500 business filed for incorporation, a slight decline of 2.5 percent.
Don Klepper-Smith, chief economist for New Haven’s DataCore Partners, a research firm, called this a clear "path to discovery." But he also acknowledged the absence of that key ingredient to a sustainable, and recovering, economy.
"The decline in business failure is good news," Klepper-Smith said in a statement. "But what we now need to see is business expansion coupled with tangible job growth."
Jobs – it all begins and ends with them.