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Jacksonville bankruptcy filings at slowest pace since 2008

by Karen Brune Mathis, Managing Editor Consumers and businesses are filing for bankruptcy at the slowest pace since 2008 in Jacksonville and in the Middle District of Florida.

Filings peaked in 2010 and have been dropping since.

 Filings in the 16-county Jacksonville Division peaked at an average of 953 a month in 2010 and have fallen to 721, based on January-September statistics. That’s an average of 232 fewer filings a month. “These numbers are not surprising,” said Jacksonville Bankruptcy Bar Association Chairman Mark Mitchell.

"They reflect the current status or trend of our economic recovery.” Mitchell, a shareholder with the Rogers Towers firm, said unemployment rates have fallen below 10 percent. Reports show that the rate is below 10 percent in the county, metropolitan area, state and nation.

If filings remain at the pace of the first nine months, bankruptcy filings could end 2012 in Jacksonville at 8,657, the lowest since 2008 and 24 percent below the record nine-month total of 11,439 in 2010.

Districtwide, the nine-month filings of 35,523 are the lowest since 2008 and 31 percent below the record 51,232 in 2010. If filings remain at the current rate, the district could end the year with 47,364 filings – again, the lowest since 2008 and 29 percent below the record of 66,618 in 2010. Lawyer Ed Jackson, a director of the association, said unemployment has fallen and Florida house values have increased slightly, citing a Zillow.com report that values rose from average of $123,000 in August 2011 to $126,000 in August this year. Zillow.com is an online real estate marketplace. “Although the economy is recovering slowly, it appears to be recovering.

The bankruptcy statistics are a reflection of the recovering economy,” said Jackson, of the Edward P. Jackson, P.A., practice. Dawn Lockhart, president and CEO of Family Foundations of Northeast Florida, said fewer bankruptcies are a positive sign. “Declining bankruptcy levels means that more people and businesses are coming out of our economic problems,” Lockhart said. “However, every bankruptcy means that a family or a business is in a financial crisis.

At Family Foundations, we know that bankruptcy is never an easy choice. Financial problems are one of the leading causes of stress,” she said. Family Foundations is a nonprofit that provides credit counseling and other services to consumers.

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