Bankruptcy filings in Hawaii reach highest level in 5 years

HONOLULU — The number of bankruptcies filed in Hawaii last month marked the highest of any month since 2014, according to court records.

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October’s 161 statewide filings represented a 19.3% increase over the 135 in the same period last year, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Monday.

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Hawaii, released the data last week.

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Last month’s filings also represented a 15% increase from the 140 filed in September. The 1,411 filings over 10 months are an increase of 11.7% over the 1,263 filed in the same period a year ago.

The last period with a similar number of bankruptcies was in April 2014 when 162 were filed, according to court records.

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At an average rate of 141 per month, the cases could surpass the 2018 total of 1,490 by the end of November.

In last month’s filings, Chapter 7 liquidation — the most common type of bankruptcy — increased 28.9% to 116 from 90 in the year-earlier period. Chapter 13 filings, which allow individuals with regular income sources to establish plans to make installment payments to creditors over three to five years, fell 2.2% to 44 from 45, records said.

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“It’s a very huge increase for one month,” said Eugene Tian, chief economist for the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. “I don’t think it is a trend. I don’t think there’s any economic reason. (But) the bankruptcy filing is an important economic indicator. We will watch this data more closely.”

Two consecutive years of rising bankruptcies is consistent with the economy slowing down, but it is not necessarily indicative of a coming recession, Tian said.

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“At the last recession the number of Hawaii’s bankruptcy filings was at nearly 4,000 cases, and now it is less than half of that level,” he said.