The number of bankruptcy cases filed in Hawaii fell in April for the fourth time in five months, setting the stage for what could be the first yearly decline in bankruptcy filings since 2006.
U.S. Bankruptcy Court said 342 cases were filed in April, 12.5 percent fewer than the 391 cases filed the same month a year earlier. With the exception of a scant 0.3 percent increase in March, bankruptcy filings have declined on a year-over-year basis in every month since December.
With bankruptcy filings still averaging more than 300 a month, however, there are still a considerable number of Hawaii residents and businesses trying to dig themselves out of debt accumulated during the recession that officially ended in the summer of 2009.
Still, the gradual reduction in filings shows that "things are definitely stabilizing at a minimum," said David Farmer, one of three federal bankruptcy court trustees operating in the District of Hawaii.
An improving economy appears to be having a positive impact on household finances, he said. "It’s premature to say we are out of the woods, but the trend is going in the right direction," Farmer said.
Bankruptcy filings through the first four months of 2011 are running 6 percent behind the year-ago pace, making a decline for the entire year a distinct possibility.
"It may not be a huge decline, but we have a good shot at it," Farmer said.
The bankruptcy court figures show that Oahu had the biggest decline in April cases, dropping to 203 from 250 the same month a year ago. The number of cases filed on Maui fell to 69 cases from 70, while filings on Kauai fell to 23 in April from 24 a year earlier. Big Island filings were unchanged at 47.