As we reported last week, 2010 marked a breaking point for many Americans who had managed to stay afloat during the height of our country’s financial meltdown as long-term unemployment and continued woes for a struggling housing market forced more than 1.5 million men and women to file for personal bankruptcy last year. This figure represents a total 9% increase from 2009 as well as a five-year high following the passage of stricter federal bankruptcy laws in 2005. And while according to the National Bankruptcy Research Center, the highest filing rates were concentrated in the Southwest and the Southeast, The Wall Street Journal’s chart, comparing state by state 2010 personal bankruptcy filings with the previous year, reveals that the largest increases in bankruptcy cut across the country as “Southern states such as Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama and Kentucky posted declines in the number of bankruptcies recorded last year. Meanwhile, states still struggling with housing busts, such as California, Arizona and Florida were among those with the largest increases.” So, without further ado, here is a list of the top ten states that were home to the highest bankruptcy rate increases in 2010: (10) Montana The Western states have been hit especially hard by the lingering economic malaise, with Montana being no exception as “Big Sky Country” saw a14.3 percent increase in bankruptcies from 2009 to 2010. (9) Maryland On the other side of the country, home foreclosures and stalled building sites—reflecting a slump in the state’s real estate and construction industries— joined other exacerbating economic factors to impact Maryland’s bankruptcy rates, marking a 15.2 percent change from 2009. (8) New Jersey People living in “The Garden State” apparently saw less “green” in 2010, with a 15.3 percent increase in bankruptcies from the previous year. (7) Florida Stalled national growth has not only affected the tourism and hospitality industries, but has also impacted America’s oldest citizens—a recipe for economic struggles for many Floridians as the Sunshine State yielded a 16.5 percent increase in 2010 bankruptcy filings. (6) Wyoming Despite being America’s least populous state and garnering big economic growth with lower-than-average unemployment in 2009, Wyoming bankruptcies increased in 2010 by 17.3 percent from the previous year. (5) Colorado Colorado continues to be hit hard as unemployment remains high, the housing market remains underwater and construction and agricultural industries continue to suffer. The result? A17.4 percent increase in bankruptcies in 2010. (4) Arizona Like other Western states, the Arizona economy was hurt by the housing bubble, translating into a 23.9 percent change in bankruptcy filings from 2009 to 2010. (3) Utah Mountain states like Utah have been hit hardest in the economic recession, with sudden shifts from hyper-growth early in the decade to a severe contraction in recent years causing “financial whiplash” for many Utahns and an increase by 24.4 percent in bankruptcy filings last year. (2) California Often a barometer for the greater nation’s financial health, California continues to struggle with the symptoms of the housing bust with the addition of one-quarter’s worth of bankruptcies in 2010 from the previous year. (1) Hawaii Hawaii’s struggling tourism industry combined with a high cost of living has made the Aloha State the new home for America’s biggest bankruptcy increases, with a 28.9 percent change from 2009 to 2010. If you live in North Carolina and are experiencing economic hardships caused by your own state’s failure to grow in the economic downturn, take heart. Tar Heel State bankruptcy experts at the Law Offices of John T. Orcutt offer a totally FREE debt consultation. Just call toll free to +1-888-234-4190, or during the off hours or make your own appointment online at www.billsbills.com. Simply click on the yellow “FREE Consultation Now” button.