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Bankruptcies are on the rise

Ashley Milne-Tyte Aug 28, 2008
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KAI RYSSDAL: All the macroeconomic talk today has largely overlooked regular Americans, the people who actually make this economy work. And if there’s any doubt that people are still having a tough time, forget what the GDP numbers say. New figures from the U.S. bankrupcty court should take care of that. Nearly a million people and businesses went under in the first half of the year.

From New York, Ashley Milne-Tyte reports.


ASHLEY MILNE-TYTE: Private companies log bankruptcy figures each month.

Bob Lawless teaches law at the University of Illinois. He says those figures show that July was packed with bankruptcy filings.

BOB LAWLESS: In fact, they were at their highest level since the 2005 bankruptcy law passed. And that kind of violates historical norms where bankruptcy filings stay pretty flat in the summer.

Lawless expects bankruptcies will continue to rise, thanks in part to lost jobs and stagnating wages.

Clark Balcom is an attorney in Portland, Ore. He’s seen a sharp uptick in clients seeking to file for bankruptcy this year. He says most earn their living in real estate or construction. Like the client who came in a couple of weeks ago.

CLARK BALCOM: She’d been a realtor for many, many years, knew her stuff, and typically made $100,000 a year or more. And now this year, so far, her total income, gross income, has only been a few thousand.

Balcom says more clients than usual have tried to stave off bankruptcy, including undergoing credit counseling. But in the end, he says, they have no other choice.

I’m Ashley Milne-Tyte for Marketplace.

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