Personal bankruptcy down on Long Island and up nationally

Personal bankruptcy filings on Long Island have declined sharply this year, even as filings in the United States rose 10 percent, the first national increase since 2010.

From January through November, Long Islanders filed an average of 411 bankruptcy cases a month this year according to filings with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of New York. That rate was 14.1 percent lower than the same period last year and almost half the pace of 2010, when 817 cases per month were filed through November.

The decline in Long Island filings for the fifth straight year in a row signals that finances for people here have improved, experts said.

Long Island and regional personal bankruptcy filings

The figure is a monthly average, based on number of filings from January through November each year in federal district court.

Bankruptcy “is always the last and worst option,” said James Chessen, chief economist at American Bankers Association. “Bottom line, consumers are doing a better job managing debt.”

The unemployment rate for Long Island dropped to 4.1 percent for October, the lowest figure for that month since 2007 according to the state Labor Department.

Other Long Island indicators also point to people faring better.

Only 12 percent of the Island’s consumers were 90 or more days late on any loan in the second quarter, compared with 14.8 percent in the state, and 20 percent nationwide, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

“Long Island’s unemployment rate is relatively low. The workforce is relatively more educated,” said John A. Rizzo, chief economist with the Long Island Association, a regional business group. “This leads to a more favorable profile of the bankruptcy filing.”

Experts said the national rise in bankruptcy filings follows higher spending and higher debt taken on by consumers.

Percentage change in personal bankruptcy filings for the U.S. and Long Island

The Long Island average is through a 11-month period, whereas the U.S. average is based on yearly figure.

In the United States and on Long Island, bankruptcy filings have mostly declined since 2005, in part because Congress raised the income threshold to file for bankruptcy, and because it increased the filing cost by about 30 percent to $2,500 on average.

U.S. personal bankruptcy filings

Starting this month, federal bankruptcy application forms will change. The changes include more forms to fill out, seeking to reduce omissions, and may require more work by consumers and attorneys, increasing filing costs.

The goal is for information “to be recorded more accurately,” said Andrew Doktofsky, a Long Island bankruptcy attorney. “The forms are definitely more detail-oriented.”