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Annual Bankruptcy Filings Fall 29.7 Percent

Bankruptcy filings fell sharply for the 12-month period ending Dec. 31, 2020, despite a significant surge in unemployment related to the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Annual bankruptcy filings in calendar year 2020 totaled 544,463, compared with 774,940 cases in 2019, according to statistics released by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. That is a decrease of 29.7 percent.

Only one category saw an increase in filings. Chapter 11 reorganizations rose 19.2  percent, from 6,808 in 2019 to 8,113 in 2020. Of those, 7,561 involved business reorganizations.

The number of total filings was the lowest since 1986, when 530,438 bankruptcies were filed. Filings fell sharply in the early months of the pandemic, starting in March 2020, when many courts offered limited access to the public. In addition, bankruptcy filings can lag behind other economic indicators. Following the Great Recession, which began in 2007, new filings escalated until they peaked in 2010.

The following tables are available:

Business and Non-Business Filings,
Years Ending
December 31, 2016-2020
Year Business Non-Business Total
2020 21,655 522,808 544,463
2019 22,780 752,160 774,940
2018 22,232 751,186 773,418
2017 23,157 765,863 789,020
2016 24,114 770,846 794,960
Total Bankruptcy Filings By Chapter,
Years Ending
December 31, 2016-2020
Year Chapter
  7 11 12 13
2020 381,217 8,113 552 154,341
2019 483,988 6,808 595 283,413
2018 475,575 7,095 498 290,146
2017 486,347 7,442 501 294,637
2016 490,365 7,292 461 296,655

For more on bankruptcy and its chapters, view the following resources: