Personal Bankruptcies In State Up 28% In 2nd Quarter

Personal bankruptcy filings in Connecticut soared 28 percent in the second quarter compared with a year earlier as job losses and falling home values continued to take a toll on household budgets, according to a new report.

There were 2,638 personal bankruptcy filings in Connecticut in the three months ended June 30, compared with 2,054 for the same period in 2008, according to the report Tuesday from The Warren Group.

Experts say job losses are making it harder for households to keep up with their bills, made worse by hefty credit card payments, forcing more people to file for bankruptcy.

"There is a tremendous amount of anguish out there," Joel Grafstein, a bankruptcy lawyer in Farmington, said.

Even those who still are employed are finding themselves in a bind, Grafstein said.

"A lot of people were using their overtime to service their credit card debt," Grafstein said. "Now that overtime is cut, they can't service the debt."

Job losses in Connecticut moderated a bit in June compared with the massive declines of this past winter. So far, the state has lost 70,000 jobs in the recession but economists forecast an additional loss of up to 30,000 through the beginning of next year.

Bankruptcy filings are expected to increase through the end of the year. If job losses ease next year as is expected, that may ease bankruptcy pressures.

But employment gains are expected to be weak, at least initially, some economists say.

"When we get into recovery mode, this is an economy that's going to come back very slowly," said Donald L. Klepper-Smith, an economist at DataCore Partners Inc. in New Haven.

Falling home values also are making it tougher to tap into equity to pay other bills, experts say.

In the quarter ended June 30, Chapter 7 filings — which all but wipe out a person's debts — rose 49 percent, to 2,329, from 1,563 a year ago. Chapter 13 filings, which require a repayment plan, fell 37 percent, to 309, from 491 a year ago.

New Haven County had the most personal bankruptcy filings with 874, followed by Hartford County with 621 and Fairfield County, with 463, according to the report.

New London County had the largest percentage increase, rising to 176, from 129, a 36.4 percent jump. Litchfield County came next, increasing to 186, from 137, a rise of 35.7 percent. New Haven County was third, rising 34.8 percent, to 874, from 648.

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