1988 was another record year for bankruptcies in Utah.
But before you start griping about the state's economy, it may soothe you to know that 1988 was also a record year for bankruptcies across the nation.Utah's record, however, is more "impressive" than the nation's.
The number of U.S. bankruptcies increased by only 6 percent last year, according to the legal publication, "The Bankruptcy Strategist." Utah doubled the national showing: bankruptcies in the state were up 12 percent.
"We're a growth industry," joked Bill Stillgebauer, clerk for the Utah District of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
And how! The number of bankruptcies filed in Utah annually has more than doubled in the past five years. In the past four years, the number of bankruptcy filings - both business and personal - has increased an average 21.2 percent a year.
But this year's figures suggest growth may be tapering off. The 1988 increase is the lowest increase in the past four years, down sharply from 1986's 28 percent increase - an all-time high.
Individuals and businesses in Utah submitted 7,641 requests for liquidation or reorganization in 1988, up from 6,796 in 1987.
The high number of business failures in the state underscores Utah's sluggish economy. In a 12-month period from June, 1987, to June, 1988, Utah business filed 1,284 bankruptcies, Stillgebauer said.
For several years, Utah had one of the largest increases in business bankruptcies in the nation. Between 1980 and 1983, the beehive state had the third highest increase in business failures nationally, according to Dun and Bradstreet statistics.
But if Utah was in trouble, so was the rest of the Rocky Mountain region. Wyoming ranked first, Arizona second, Colorado fifth and Nevada ninth for increases in business failures during those years.
Statistics on Utah's current ranking in business failures are not available.
Utah's annual climb in bankruptcies makes it one of the busiest bankruptcy districts in the country. Of the 94 bankruptcy districts in the United States, the Utah district ranked 27th in total number of bankruptcy filings last year, Stillgebauer said.
Utah has more bankruptcies than many of the larger, eastern bankruptcy districts, he said.
"We have more bankruptcies than the eastern district of New York," he said. In a 12-month period from June, 1987 to June, 1988, Utah had 7,258 filings. The eastern district of New York had only 6,000. The district comprises much of New York City, including parts of Queens, Richmond and Brooklyn and all of Long Island, Stillegebaur said.
Salt Lake County had more bankruptcies for its population than any other county. Over a three-year period, one bankruptcy was filed for every 61 people living in the county.
Duchesne came in second, followed by Weber, then Uintah.
Fiscal woes in some counties are readily understandable. Uintah and Duchesne counties have been hard hit by the drop in oil prices. No other industry has come into the area to take up the slack.