Bankruptcies are back — flashing warnings that more Americans are knee-deep in debt in big cities like New York.
While total bankruptcy petitions nationwide by consumers and businesses are still well below Great Recession levels, analysts say there is an unmistakable trend upward.
New York state’s bankruptcy filings, for instance, have risen steadily the past three years, hitting 34,711 in 2018, up from 30,112 in 2016, according to the American Bankruptcy Institute (ABI), based on data from Epiq Systems.
More consumers nationwide are falling behind on their payments and filing for bankruptcy to resolve overwhelming debt loads. And low unemployment, an uptick in average wages and the latest Fed interest rate cut have not restrained the debt monster. Some cash-strapped consumers are even finding relief at food pantries.
“In high-cost cities like New York, personal incomes are not often enough to pay the household bills,” Zac Hall, vice president of anti-poverty programs at the Food Bank For New York City, told The Post. “We are seeing people using consumer debt as a way to make ends meet when they come here,” he added, citing the pressures his nonprofit faces to keep up the distribution of food and meals at no cost to some 1.5 million New Yorkers.
And unmanageable debt is also forcing more companies to file for bankruptcy, triggering a wave of job cuts — with nearly 43,000 job losses announced in the first seven months of this year, according to a new report by Challenger, Gray & Christmas. It’s almost 20 percent more than all bankruptcy-linked job cuts in 2018. In the latest example, last week Barneys New York said it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
According to data released last week by the ABI, US bankruptcy filings surged by 3 percent in July 2019 from July 2018. A total of 64,283 filings were reported for July, up from 62,241 for July 2018. And if the trend continues, this year’s overall total of bankruptcies is on pace to hit 796,000, far exceeding the 777,000 for last year.
Meanwhile, record American household debt, near $14 trillion including mortgages and student loans, is some $1 trillion higher than during the Great Recession of 2008. Credit card debt of $1 trillion also exceeds the 2008 peak.
Americans are spending heavily, again — and often recklessly, say analysts.
“No question about the fact that credit quality is declining,” said Dick Bove, a financial strategist at Odeon Capital Group in New York.
Bove noted how American banks have scaled back on the more stringent lending and underwriting standards that followed the 2008 financial crisis, leading banks to purge their portfolios of toxic debt.
“The world is different now,” he added, “so I feel very confident — unfortunately — that there will be increases in bankruptcies.”
Original article seen on New York Post (John Aidan Byrne)