Personal bankruptcy filings rose by 32% 2009 over the previous year as more Americans faced financial hardship due to unemployment and home foreclosure.
Overall, bankruptcy filings hit 1.41 million in 2009, the highest number since 2005, when Congress drastically changed the bankruptcy law to make it more difficult to file, according to the National Bankruptcy Research Center. That number is more than double the filings from 2007, the year before the start of the recession..
Chapter 7 filings, which allow debtors to liquidate assets to pay some debt while erasing others, were up more than 42% as of November, the last month for which data is available.
Chapter 13 filings, the so-called rehabilitation filing that forces debtors into repayment programs, were up 12% and accounted for less than a third of overall filings through November.
The states with the largest increase in filings since 2008 were Arizona with an 80% increase followed by Nevada, California, Wyoming and Utah, all with increases of about 60%. The lowest jump in bankruptcy filings occurred in Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Alaska, Tennessee and South Carolina, which each saw an increase of between 12% and 15%.
An unemployment rate of over 10%, along with the tanking housing market, has forced once financially solvent consumers to consider bankruptcy.