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Business failures up 43 percent last year

Business failures hit record levels in 1991, up 43.7 percent with insurance, finance and real estate companies taking the brunt of the hit, a survey released Thursday said.

Falling real estate prices, debt-burdened businesses, stingy banks and bankruptcies from failed leveraged buyouts contributed to the demise of 87,266 businesses in 1991, Dun & Bradstreet Corp. said. That was up from 60,746 in 1990.

Unpaid debts of defunct businesses totaled $108.8-billion last year, a gain of 95.9 percent from 1990.

New England led the nation with the highest percentage of business failures. The survey reported 5,590 regional businesses failed in 1991, up 81.1 percent from the year-earlier total of 3,087. More than half of those failures _ 2,806 _ occurred in Massachusetts.

Across the country, troubled real estate was key to the 53.5 percent rise in failures among financial, insurance and real estate companies, Dun & Bradstreet said.

The survey showed construction business failures up 44.8 percent; transportation and utilities, up 45.9 percent; services, up 40.6 percent; retailing, up 31.1 percent; and manufacturing, up 37.8 percent. Agriculture, forestry and fishing failures were up 28.8 percent.

Dun & Bradstreet said the Middle Atlantic region saw failures rise 75.6 percent; South Atlantic, 52.1 percent; and the Pacific region, 62.8 percent, mostly in California.

Failures were up in all states except Iowa, North Dakota, Louisiana, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Hawaii.

Dun & Bradstreet bases its statistics on businesses that ceased operations following bankruptcy, foreclosure, receivership or reorganization.

Jobless claims rise

steeper than expected

WASHINGTON _ First-time claims for jobless benefits rose 18,000 in early February, reaching a total of 452,000, the government reported Thursday.

The increase, a gauge of the newly laid off, was steeper than most analysts had expected after two weeks of small declines.

Because the claims number can be extremely volatile from week to week, analysts pay more attention to a four-week average, which remained at around 450,000.

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