The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has just released its data on the number of bankruptcies filed during 2016, and once again Milwaukee leads the state in the number of bankruptcies filed.
17,159 bankruptcies were filed in Wisconsin during 2016, and 6,827 of those were filed in Milwaukee County. It is not surprising that Milwaukee County leads the state in the number of bankruptcies filed since it is also the most populous county in the state, but the number of bankruptcies filed there is still disproportionally high.
As a comparison, consider the number of bankruptcies filed in nearby counties:
Racine – 736
Ozaukee – 147
Waukesha – 856
Sheboygan – 242
A closer look at the Milwaukee bankruptcies reveals that 6,773 of the county’s 6,827 bankruptcies are non-business bankruptcies, meaning they are being filed by individuals or families. This suggests that people in the area are still really struggling to make ends meet despite the fact that the economists stay we are no longer in a recession.
If there is a silver lining to this dark cloud, it is the overall drop in the number of bankruptcies filed in 2016 compared to 2015. This trend carries through Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, and the nation as a whole.
In 2015, there were 7,630 bankruptcies filed in Milwaukee County. In 2016, that number fell to 6,827.
18,793 bankruptcies were filed in Wisconsin in 2015. In 2016, that number fell to 17,159.
Across the country, 794,960 bankruptcies were filed, down from the 844,495 bankruptcy cases filed in the previous year. This is a 5.9 percent drop in filings overall.
According to the Administrative Office of the Courts, this is the lowest number of bankruptcy filings for any calendar year since 2006, and the sixth consecutive calendar year that filings have fallen. However, 2016 was the first calendar year since 2011 that the rate of annual decline was less than 10 percent.
As we attempt to draw conclusions about what this data means, it is important to remember that bankruptcy as a concept is a mixed bag. Having a large number of people file for bankruptcy is not good since it means people and businesses are struggling in the grand scheme of things. But on a more micro level, filing for bankruptcy is like hitting the do-over button. Wiping away old debts and putting people and businesses on a stronger financial foundation so that they can have a second chance to create a good life for their family or start a new business is a good thing.