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CPBJ Extra Blog

The further adventures of business bankruptcy filings

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I'm a person who deals best in logic, statistics and certainty.

When the numbers add up, I’m a happy camper. When the numbers don’t add up, I look all over the place for someone who can tell me why.

That’s what happened to me for the last two weeks in researching and reporting the story that ran in Friday’s Business Journal, about how the business bankruptcy numbers in the midstate just don’t add up. I’m the person who wants statistics to behave — and these didn’t from the get-go.

If business bankruptcy filings have gone down steadily in the country, state and even in our Middle District of Pennsylvania, then it stands to reason the filings should have dropped steadily here too, even if it’s not at the 45 percent rate the rest of the country has experienced since 2009.

But they haven’t. They actually went up in 2013. I knew it was strange when I started diving into the research. So when I think something is strange, I call the experts.

And the experts were just as baffled.

But for all the data I went through, I was able to give you only the most important items.

Here are some other tidbits of statistics that didn’t fit in the story:

I went back as far as 1998 checking the business bankruptcy filings for the region, and in 1998, there were 528 in our eight local counties. So to be down to 156 in 2013 is fantastic. That’s where the federal regulations that made it harder to declare for bankruptcy came in and, luckily, they worked, because that was a lot more people and companies who loaned money in good faith who weren’t getting money they were rightfully owed.

I focused only on business bankruptcies and not individual bankruptcies, because, well, we’re not called the Central Pennsylvania Individual Journal. But if you’re wondering, individual bankruptcy filings make up about 96 or 97 percent of all filings. And those numbers are actually doing better locally than the national decrease of 26.5 percent since 2009. The midstate is at 31.9 percent.

Of the eight counties I examined in the midstate — Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry and York — only the business bankruptcies in Adams behaved near with national trends. But its high was 10 filings in 2009, and it was flat at just three from 2012 to 2013.

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