The number of Americans who were forced to file for bankruptcy protection rose in July for the first time in months, which kicked off the second half of the year on a down note.
According to the National BankruptcyResearch Center, there were 137,698 filings across the country in the July. That number is a nine percent increase from the total posted in June, as well as over the same month last year. Further, if the number of consumers who seek protection from their creditors continues on its current pace, the nationwide total of filings will top 1.6 million, a significant increase from the 1.4 million last year. At the time, that was the most bankruptcy petitions filed since the country revamped its laws in 2005, which made it more difficult for consumers to do away with their debt.
The Wall Street Journal’s report on the figures said that one of the largest contributing factors to the increase in bankruptcies is that credit issuers have tightened restrictions on the type of consumers they will lend to, and as a result more consumers had trouble paying debts.
"They can no longer borrow to stave off the day of reckoning," Robert Lawless, a University of Illinois law professor, told the newspaper.
The report said that this renewed vigor with which consumers are filing for bankruptcy has cast serious doubt on whether the 2005 law changes have been effective, as filings are once again returning to the levels seen in the early and mid-2000s. However, it mentions that the number of filings could decline slightly in the next few years if consumers who are shut off from additional lines of credit can’t amass more debt.
The report also noted that many states in the Southern U.S. have unusually high rates of filing. Ronald Mann, a Columbia University law professor, found that six of the 10 counties across the country with the highest bankruptcy rates are located in suburban Atlanta. Filings in Hawaii, California, Arizona and Utah have all climbed more than 30 percent over the rates seen a year ago.
The NRBC report also said that 75 percent of all bankruptcy filings in July were under Chapter 7, which allows for liquidation, rather than Chapter 13, which requires consumers to pay back a portion of their debt over a period of three to five years.