To conduct this study, Equifax analyzed national bankruptcy trends by metropolitan statistical area (MSA) during Q1 2011 and compared these findings to previous timeframes. Equifax data shows that in Q1 2011 nine of the top 15 MSA's with the greatest number of small business bankruptcies experienced a year-over-year decline in business failures from Q1 2010. In fact, key MSA's in California and Oregon, which reported record-high small business bankruptcy numbers in Q2 2009, saw double-digit dips from Q1 2010 to the first quarter of this year. The Denver/Aurora, Colorado MSA reported the biggest drop, with a 26.16 percent decrease in bankruptcy petitions during this time period. While these findings represent a positive development for the small business market, the data must be viewed using a wider lens to assess broader trends. As the table below shows, small business bankruptcies are still at levels that far exceed those of pre-recession periods, especially for Western region MSA's.
Despite some improvement in small business bankruptcy rates during Q1 2011, it appears that another trend has developed in select regions and may be overshadowing market gains in the commercial landscape. Equifax data shows that when comparing bankruptcy rates from Q3 2010 through Q1 2011, there has been a modest deceleration in the rate of decline for key MSA's reporting some of the highest small business bankruptcy rates in the country. While 60 percent of these MSA's continued to experience a decrease in small business bankruptcy petitions during both the Q3 2010 to Q4 2010 and Q4 2010 to Q1 2011 timeframes, three of these areas saw a significant drop in the rate of decline from Q4 2010 to the first quarter of this year. They include the Riverside/San Bernandino/Ontario, Santa Ana/Anaheim/Irvine and Oregon-Rest of State MSA's. Also signaling a potential shift in small business bankruptcy trends is the rise in petitions within four key MSA's: Sacramento/Arden/Arcade, California-Rest of State, New York/White Plains/Wayne, NY-NJ and Chicago/ Naperville/Joliet, IL. While bankruptcies in all of these areas have consistently declined since Q2 2009, Equifax data revealed that the number of petitions in each of these MSA's jumped from Q4 2010 to the first quarter of this year.
"In light of today's shifting economic conditions, bankruptcy trends serve as a valuable prism through which to evaluate the credit health of today's small business market," said Dr. Reza Barazesh, senior vice president, Equifax Commercial Information Solutions. "Our latest analysis shows that while business failures may be on the decline, conflicting trends are still making us question if the worst is behind us. Only time will tell if these patterns are just a market aberration resulting from current economic turbulence or a sign of change to come."
To gain a holistic picture of small business bankruptcy trends, Equifax also analyzed the 15 metro areas with the fewest filings in the first quarter of 2011. Equifax analysis revealed that 10 of these 15 MSA's saw a decline in bankruptcy petitions from Q4 2010 to Q1 2011 and the total number of bankruptcy filings for these 15 metro areas decreased by 43.09% in Q1 2011 year-over-year.