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Bankruptcy numbers for Utah rank second in nation

By Sun Advocate

Last year, one out of every 36 households in Utah filed for bankruptcy protection.
In fact, Utah posted the second highest number of filings in the entire United States in 2001 and the trend appears to be gaining momentum in 2002.
In February, 1,507 Utah households filed for bankruptcy protection in federal court, representing a decline from January’s 1,754 petitions.
But combined, January and February constituted a 26 percent increase from the same period a year ago, according to the statistics compiled by the United States Bankruptcy Court for Utah.
In addition to the bankruptcy figures, the latest data released by the Utah Department of Workforce Services confirm the state’s economic slowdown. The DWS statistics show that the average number of initial unemployment insurance claims registered at 2,093 during the last four weeks.
The total reflects a 22 percent jump from the 1,719 claims for benefits submitted by Utahns in 2001. The number of all 2002 initial claims measured 2,250. The number of weeks claimed at 26,221 is up 51 percent from last year’s 17,401.
Kmart’s decision to include four Utah outlets in the 284 stores earmarked for closure as part of corporation’s restructuring under Chapter 11 bankruptcy will add to the state’s unemployment concerns, pointed out workforce services. The closures will result in the loss of roughly 250 jobs.
The company plans to continue to operate the Big Kmart in Price. But stores located in Brigham City, Farmington, Park City and Sandy are scheduled to shut down May 7.
Climbing gasoline prices are compounding the financial situation faced by many consumers residing throughout the state.
AAA Utah’s monthly survey found that the average price per gallon for self-serve regular gasoline has increased three cents to $1.16. The average price nationwide is $1.22, an increase of 10 cents from last month’s price of $1.12.
In addition, a general decline in the state’s economy has made it difficult for displaced Salt Lake Organizing Committee employees to find work. SLOC had hoped to find post-Olympic work for 90 percent of its employees by the end of the Paralympics on March 16. But currently, only one-third of the Olympic workers have been placed in new employment positions.
At the national level, U.S. retail sales rose less than expected in February, signaling the economy is probably growing but not at a runaway pace. Retail sales edged up a seasonally adjusted 0.3 percent last month to $296.41 billion, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.
Providing evidence that the nation’s economy is beginning to pull out of recession, employers added 66,000 workers to non-farm payrolls in February, according to figures released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of workers lining for first-time unemployment benefits edged down to 377,000 from 380,000, reported the U.S. Labor Department.
U.S. business inventories rose in January. Stocks increased 0.2 percent after a dropping in December. Total business sales rose 1.1 percent on the month after posting an unchanged outcome in December.
Analysts view the rebuilding of inventories as a crucial development in lifting the country out of recessions.
The deficit in the nation’s broadest measure of trade narrowed slightly to $417.4 billion last year, still the second-highest imbalance on record. The account trade deficit decreased 6.1 percent from the all-time high of $444.7 billion set in 2000, pointed out the U.S. Commerce Department. Last year marked the first time that the account had shown an improvement since a 7 percent decline to $109.9 billion in 1995.
The U.S. economy is breaking out of recession and may grow at a 3.7 percent rate in the second half of the year, according to the Blue Chip Economic Indicators survey. The consensus forecast calls for the gross domestic product to increase at a 2.6 percent annual rate in first quarter 2002. By comparison, the economy grew at a 1.4 percent in fourth quarter 2001.
The National Bureau of Economic Research, indicated last week that economic activity may have stopped declining. However, the bureau was not ready to formally declare an end to the recession starting in March 2001. The agency’s six-member panel will make a judgment in the future as to when the U.S. economy actually bottomed out and began to recover. The group will wait for additional data to rule out the possibility that the contraction in economic activity might resume.

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