Bankruptcy and Business Failure Data

The purpose of this report is to provide statistical data on the actual number of businesses that are filing for bankruptcy or ceasing operations. Tabular data of both a historical and current nature concerning business failures and bankruptcies is provided.

CRS- 1 ISSUE DEFINITION Currently, the U.S. economy is experiencing a tremendous increase in the number of businesses filing for bankruptcy as well as ceasing operations. This recent surge in business failures is unprecedented since the Great Depression of the 1930s. There are quite a few endogenous and exogenous factors that may contribute to the failure of a firm; however, many financial analysts believe that two developments that occurred in late 1979 may have had a major impact on the recent high rate of business failures. First, the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1978 substantially revised U.S. bankruptcy laws, allowing significant benefits to businesses as well as consumers that they did not have prior to the Act. Second, interest rates increased to an Unusually high level for an unprecedented length of time. The purpose of this Mini Brief is to provide statistical data on the actual number of businesses that are filing for bankruptcy or ceasing operations. Tabular data of both a historical and current nature concerning business failures and bankruptcies is provided. Furthermore, for your convenience, the Congressional Research Service is now providing a new service to congressional users, the CRS Stats Line. This new service is a recorded message which will give the most current figures available on business failures by calling 287-7034. There are primarily two sources for business failure and business bankruptcy data in the United States, Dun and Bradstreet Inc., (D&B) and the Administrative Office of the United States Courts. Although the Dun an& Bradstreet data has been published since 1857 and in most respects is considered to be more comprehensive than the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts data, they both have major limitations. Dun and Bradstreet considers business failures to be "those businesses that ceased operations following assignments or bankruptcy; ceased With loss to creditors after such actions as execution, foreclosure or attachment; voluntarily withdrew leaving unpaid obligations; were involved in Court actions such as receiversnip; reorganization, or arrangement; or voluntarily compromised with creditors out of court." It should be noted that a major point concerning this definition is that a loss to creditors is involved, irrespective of whether or not bankruptcy proceedings were initiated. . Although Dun and Bradstreet data provide breakdowns by 43 industry divisions, by State and in 25 U.S. cities, by five size levels of current liabilities, and by cause of failure, several major sectors of the U.S. economy are excluded. These sectors include banks, mortgage, loan and investment companies, insurance and real estate companies, railroads, terminals, amusements, personal one-man services, professiqns, and farmers. Moreover, Dun and Bradstreet does not publish failure data based on employment size or current sales volume of firms. -- Dun and Bradstreet's failure rate is based on the number of failures per 10,000 listed firms. However, those firms listed by Dun and Bradstreet represent only about a third of the total total number of businesses in the United States. CRS- 2 MB82242 UPDATE-01/30/84 The Administrative Office of the United States Courts has providedL statistical data on business bankruptcies filed and pending since 1940 on an annual basis. Moreover, unpublished data has been available from this office In comparing these data with D & B 1 s on a quarterly basis since 1975. statistics, i t should be noted that the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts does include categories of businesses which are excluded by D&B; however, it does not include businesses which settle with creditors out s f court. Furthermore, although the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts does not provide the breakdowns by industry o r by geographic area that B&B provides, it does provide breakdowns by type of bankruptcy and by occupations of debtors. However, according to a 1973 report published by the Commission o n the Bankruptcy Laws of the United States, it was noted that the Bankruptcy Division of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has not established a uniform criterion for distinguishing between a llbusinessll case and a "nonbusiness" case. This report states that neath bankruptcy court clerk reporting statistics to the Administrative Office makes the determinationw; therefore, there i s a likely possibility that the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts' statistics may not fully reflect the incidence of small business failures that become cases under the Bankruptcy Reform Act. There are a t least two additional major limitations present in the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts data. First, these statistics are not limited to straight bankruptcy; therefore, they tend not to indicate business failures in a narrow sense because the Bankruptcy Code allows a number of these businesses to reorganize in order to continue operation of the business, Secondly, the Administrative Office data generally only applies to bankruptcy filings; therefore, only the initial stage in the bankruptcy proceedings is reflected. Consequently, for analytical purposes Dun and Bradstreet data, although beset by .several limitations, are considered by most analysts to be preferable to the bankruptcy data of the Administrative Office of the U.S, courts. The following tables are provided to indicate the number and liabilities of business failures; the number of joint petitions, business, and nonbusiness filings for bankruptcyp and the failure rate for those farms listed by Dun and Bradstreet. Table P indicates the number and rate sf business failures, a s well a s the Current liabilities of those firms which have ceased operations from 1940-1981 according to =Dun and Bradsteet. Liabilities a s defined by D&B and used in these tables include all accounts and notes payable and all obligations, whether in secured form or not, known to be held by banks, officers, affiliated companies, supplying companies or the Government. Long-term, publicly held obligations are not included and off-setting assets are not taken into account. Dun & Bradstreet's failure rate is based on the number of failures per 10,000 listed firms. Table 2 provides the most current statistics o n the number of businesses for the that have failed a s well as a comparison with the same time period previous year according to Dun and Bradstreet. This table also indicates the average number of failures per week a s we11 a s the average number of failures with liabilities over $100,000 for 1981 and $982. Table 3 provides statistical data on bankruptcy cases filed for the years 1968-1982 indicating those cases that are classified as business or nonbusiness according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. --- - - - . # - cases filea Table 4 indicates the most current data on bankruptcy according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts broken down monthly CRS- 3 MB82242 UPDATE-01/30/84 for 1980-1983. These data are classified as business, nonbusiness; or joint petition cases. Joint petitions reflect a new filing provision under the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1978 where previously a husband and wife, or partners in a business, would have filed separate petitions. The combined totals heading in this table reflects the number of joint petitions, plus the total number of nonbusiness and business cases filed; thus the resulting figure may be more comparable to sfatistics for cases filed under the o l d bankruptcy law. CRS- 4 TAbLE 1A. Year MB82242 Rate and number of business failures Total Number of failures Liability size class Under $lOOsOOO $100,000 and Over - UPDATE-01/38/84 1940-1982 Failure rate: 'per 10,000 Listed f i r m s 21 9 163 123 66 46 50 126 371 397 538 416 432 530 787 860 856 1,071 1,192 1,465 1,346 1,795 2,069 2,010 2,182 2,155 2p174 2,228 2,220 1,807 1,962 2,729 2,715 2,526 2,918 3,182 3 ,9 2 8 3,452 3 ,058 2,907 3,634 6,060 N.A. SOURCE: 1940-1980 figures from Dun & Bradstreet, Inc. Business Failure Record, 1982. 1981 data from Dun & Bradstreet on Business Failures presented before the ~ u b c o m m i t t e e on General Oversight, House Committee on Small Business, June 23, 1982. CRS- 5 MB82242 TAbLE'lB. Liabilities of business failures, 1940 (in Millions of Dollars) Year 1940 Liability Size Class Under $100,000 and Over $100,000 . 119.9 46.8 100.7 35.4 20.5 80.3 30.2 15.1 14.5 17.1 11.4 18.8 15.7 51.6 63.7 140.9 93.9 140.7 161.4 146.7 151.2 97.1 131.6 128.0 131.9151.4 167.5 226.6 211.4 251.2 206.4 243.0 239.8 322.9 267.1 348.2 297.6 430.7 278.9 413.9 611.4 327.2 370.1 720.0 - UPDATE-01/30/84 1981 TABLE 1B. (continued) Liabilities of business failures, 1940 (in millions of dollars) Year 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 Liability size class Under Total $100,000 346.5 1,213.6 1,352.6 321.0 1,329.2 313.6 1,321.7 321.7 1,385.7 321.5 1,265.2 297.9 941.0 241.1 1,142.1 231.3 18 887.8 269.3 1,916.9 271.3 2,000.2 258.8 2,298.6 235.6 3,653.1 256.9 4,380.2 298.6 3,011-3 257-8 3,095-3 288.4 2,656.0 164.7 2,667.4 179.9 4,635.1 272.5 N,A. 64-A. - 1981 and Over 867.1 1,031.6 1,015.6 1,000.0 1,064.1 967.3 699.9 910.8 1,618-4 11 645.6 1,741.5 2,063.0 2,796.=3 4,081.6 2,753.4 2,887.0 2,499.3 2,487.5 4,362.6 N.A. SOURCE: 1940-1980 figures from Dun & Bradstreet, Ine. Business Failure Record, 1982. 1981 data from Dun & Bradstreet on Business Failures presented before the Subcommittee on General Oversight, House Committee on Small Business, June 23, 1982. MB82242 CRS- 7 TABLE 2. UPDATE-01/30/84 Current Statistics on the Number of Business Failures, 1982 1982 1983 . - Year To Date Average per week . 25,346 31.334 487 603 Average per week (Liabilities $100,000 or more) Business Failures for the week Dec. Dec. Dec. Dec. Dec. Nov. ended: 29 22 15 8 1 24 Source: Dun & Bradstreet, Inc. Economic Analysis Department: Weekly Failure Statistics. Jan, 5, 1984. CRS- 8 TABLE 3. a / - UPDATE-01/38/84 Bankruptcy Cases Filed, 1968-1982 (for years ending June 30) NonBusiness 181,266 169,500 178,202 182 r 249 164,737 Year 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 MB82242 % of Total 91.6 91.7 91.7 90.5 90.1 Business 16 r 545 158430 16 197 19 t 103 18,132 @ % of Total 8 4 8.3 8.3 905 9.9 0 Total 197,811 1841 930 194,399 201,352 182,869 Preliminary Source: Administrative Office of the U.S. Division. Courts, Bankruptcy CRS- 9 TABLE 4. Year - NonBusiness MB82242 UPDATE-01/30/84 Bankruptcy Cases Filed, 1981-1983 (Calendar Years) Business Total Joint Petitions (a) Combined Totals (b) 1980: 1981: Jan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May June July Aug. Sept. Oct. NOV. Dec. 1982 Jan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May June July Aug. Sept. Oct. NOV. Dec. 1983 Jan. Feb. Mar. Apr. 1983: Hay June July Aug. Sept. Oct. Nov. (a): Joint filings are now permitted under the new Bankruptcy Code where previously a husband and wife, or partners in a business would have filed separate petitions. (b): The combined total reflects the number of joint petitions plus the total number of non-business and business cases filed. This may be more comparable to statistics for cases filed under the old bankru.ptcy law. Source: Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, Bankruptcy Division. ADDITIONAL REFERENCE SOURCES U.S. --------- ----U.S. Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service. Business failure: a review of the concept and its significance in the American economy. Report No. 81-195 E, by Julius Allen and Mark Jickling. Washington, 1981. 29 p. The Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1978 and the United States economy: a tentative look at some interrelationships. Report No. 81-145 E, by Julius Allen and Mark Jickling. Washington, 1981. 26 p. A comparison of failure and liability trends in manufacturing industries: implications for business assistance policies. Report No. 81-36 E, by Nonna A. Noto and Dennis Zimmerman. Washington, 1981. 31 p. Federal assistance to troubled firms? An analysis of business failure data. Report No. 88-212 E s by Nonna A, Noto a n d Dennis Zimmerman. Washington, 1980. 65 p. Congress. House. Committee on Small Business. Subcommittee on General Oversight. Current business failure epidemic. Hearings, 97th Congress, 26 session. Washington, U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1982. 218 p.