Small businesses across the United States are experiencing a surge in bankruptcies, surpassing levels not seen since 2020, and, according to a UBS note reviewed by The Epoch Times, conditions could become worse as the ripple effects from the recent banking crises begin to manifest.

The note from the UBS Evidence Lab shows private bankruptcy filings in 2023 have exceeded the highest point recorded during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic by a considerable amount. The four-week moving average for private filings in late February was 73 percent higher than in June 2020.

“[We] believe one of the more underappreciated signs of distress in U.S. corporate credit is already emanating from the small- and mid-size enterprises sector,” Matthew Mish, head of credit strategy at UBS, wrote in a recently published research note. “[The] smallest of firms [are] facing the most severe pressure from rising rates, persistent inflation and slowing growth.”

The industries hit hardest by the wave of bankruptcies include real estate, health care, chemicals, and retail outlets, according to the Swiss bank’s report.

The Federal Reserve’s monetary tightening to combat inflationary pressures has been largely behind the uptick in bankruptcies. UBS indicated that the fear of a credit crunch has further worsened the rise in defaults.

U.S. Federal Reserve building
The Federal Reserve building’s facade in Washington on July 31, 2013. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Credit conditions are tightening across the spectrum. Large businesses and individual borrowers are feeling the heat as well.

As of February 2023, the monthly bankruptcy filings exceeded 31,000, an 18 percent rise from the 25,564 bankruptcy filings reported in February 2022, according to data provided by the American Bankruptcy Institute. The increase in Chapter 11 bankruptcies—typically used by larger businesses—rose by 83 percent over the same period, with 373 total filings in February.

The White House has downplayed the current economic challenges and their effect on small businesses. Last week, President Joe Biden cited higher rates of new business formation over the past three years—without acknowledging the issues entrepreneurs face.

“When I came into office, this economy was reeling. Small businesses were hurting. Literally hundreds of thousands of small businesses had closed across the country. Millions of Americans, many of whom worked in small businesses, lost their jobs through no fault of their own,” he said. “To jumpstart American economic recovery, we needed to help the small businesses, and we needed to help them fast. So we got to work.”

The president claimed that the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 helped the economy by providing emergency loans to millions of businesses.

Still, the administration is set to raise the corporate income tax to 28 percent sometime in the coming months. The tax hike will affect small businesses at a time when credit conditions continue to tighten.

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