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The 20 Biggest Bankruptcies in U.S. History

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Doing business means taking calculated risks.

Regardless of whether you are opening a lemonade stand or you’re a leading executive at a Fortune 500 company, risk is an inevitable part of the game.

Taking bigger risks can generate proportional rewards – and sometimes, such as for the companies you’ll read about below, the risk-taking backfired to queue up some of the biggest bankruptcies in U.S. history.

Going For Broke

Today’s infographic comes to us from TitleMax, and it highlights the 20 biggest bankruptcies in the country’s history.

Companies below are sorted by total assets at the time of bankruptcy.

The 20 Biggest Bankruptcies in U.S. History

There are times when companies are forced to push in all of their chips to make a game-changing bet. Sometimes this pans out, and sometimes the plan fails miserably.

In other situations, companies were actually unaware they were “all-in”. Instead, the potentially destructive nature of the risk was not even on the radar, only to be later triggered through a global crisis or unanticipated “Black Swan” events.

The Biggest Bankruptcies in the U.S.

Here are the 20 biggest bankruptcies in U.S. history, and what triggered them:

RankCompanyYearAssets at BankruptcyDownfall
#1Lehman Brothers2008$691 billion2008 financial crisis
#2Washington Mutual2008$328 billion2008 financial crisis
#3Worldcom Inc.2002$104 billionAccounting scandal
#4GM2009$82 billionMassive debt
#5CIT Group2009$71 billionCredit crunch
#6Pacific Gas & Electric2019$71 billionWildfires
#7Enron2001$66 billionFraud
#8Conseco2002$61 billionFailed acquisition strategy
#9MF Global2011$41 billionEuropean sovereign bonds
#10Chrysler2009$39 billionMassive debt
#11Thornburg Mortgage2009$37 billionDeclining mortgage values
#12Pacific Gas & Electric2001$36 billionDrought
#13Texaco1987$35 billionContract dispute
#14FCOA1988$34 billionSavings and loan crisis
#15Refco2005$33 billionAccounting fraud
#16IndyMac Bancorp2008$33 billionMortgage market collapse
#17Global Crossing2002$30 billionPlummeting world economy
#18Bank of New England1991$30 billionBad loans
#19General Growth Properties2009$30 billionFailed acquisition strategy
#20Lyondell Chemical2009$27 billionDecline in demand

The data set on the biggest bankruptcies is organized by assets at time of bankruptcy. Therefore, they are not in inflation-adjusted terms, meaning the list skews towards more recent events.

This makes the impact of the 2008 financial crisis particularly easy to spot.

The events and consequences relating to the crisis (loan defaults, illiquidity, and declining asset values) were enough to take down banks like Lehman Brothers and WaMu. The after effects – including a slumping global economy – led to a second wave of bankruptcies for companies such as GM and Chrysler.

In total, nine of the 20 biggest bankruptcies on the list occurred in the 2008-2009 span.

A Dubious Distinction

You may also notice that one company was on the list twice, and this was not an accident.

Pacific Gas & Electric, a California company that is the nation’s largest utility provider, has the dubious distinction of going bankrupt twice in the last 20 years. The first time, in 2001, resulted from a drought that limited hydro electricity generation, forcing the company to import electricity from outside sources at exorbitant prices.

The more recent instance happened earlier this year. Facing tens of billions of dollars in liabilities from raging wildfires in California, the utility filed for Chapter 11 protection yet another time.

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Mapped: The Industry Hiring the Most People In Every Country

The restaurant industry has the most vacancies in the U.S., followed by non-profit organizations.

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Mapped: The Industry Hiring the Most People In Every Country

Job searching can be challenging, especially when you are located in a region where your skills may not be in high demand.

This map illustrates which industry is hiring the most people in every country, based on LinkedIn job listings searched by Resume.io. This analysis only considers countries with 300 or more job listings and data is as of August 2023.

The Top Job Postings in America, Canada, the UK, and Australia

The restaurant industry had the most vacancies in the U.S., accounting for 7.9% of all job ads. It was followed by non-profit organizations with 5.6%, and motor vehicle manufacturing with 4.4%:

U.S. Industry by Job Ads% of Job Ads
Restaurants7.86%
Non-profit Organizations5.59%
Motor Vehicle Manufacturing4.41%
Software Development4.28%
Hospitality4.07%
Wellness and Fitness Services3.78%
Financial Services3.76%
Transportation, Logistics, Supply Chain, Storage3.61%
Internet Publishing3.59%
Defense and Space Manufacturing3.53%

According to the study, the trend in restaurant hiring is indicative of America’s return to eating out after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, hospitals and health care were Canada’s biggest potential employers, with almost 15% of all job ads. Retail came in second with 12.4%, followed by staffing and recruitment with 6.8%:

Canadian Industry by Job Ads% of Job Ads
Hospitals and Health Care14.82%
Retail12.45%
Staffing and Recruiting6.85%
Human Resources Services4.61%
IT Services and IT Consulting3.86%
Technology, Information and Internet3.75%
Financial Services3.53%
Manufacturing3.16%
Internet Publishing2.85%
Construction2.61%

In the UK, the construction industry had the most wanted ads with 9.2%. Britain’s construction industry has faced ongoing worker shortages, exacerbated by Brexit, which has prevented EU citizens from working in the UK without visas:

UK Industry by Job Ads% of Job Ads
Construction9.22%
Industrial Machinery Manufacturing6.03%
Education Administration Programs5.78%
Financial Services4.88%
Non-profit Organizations4.69%
Civil Engineering3.99%
Motor Vehicle Manufacturing3.62%
Accounting3.45%
Advertising Services3.43%
Hospitality3.36%

Just three sectors accounted for over 30% of the jobs available in Australia. Government administration was the sector hiring the most people (11.60%), followed by staffing and recruiting (10.8%) and hospitals and health care (10.2%):

Australian Industry by Job Ads% of Job Ads
Government Administration11.60%
Staffing and Recruiting10.81%
Hospitals and Health Care10.20%
Retail6.85%
IT Services and IT Consulting5.55%
Financial Services3.06%
Construction3.01%
Education Administration Programs2.68%
Human Resources Services2.54%
Software Development2.24%

Industry Hiring In Every Country by Job Ads in 2023

Across all countries, two sectors posted the most wanted ads in the most countries (28), staffing and recruiting and IT services and IT consulting. Healthcare and retail industries also appear among those in high demand.

CountryIndustry
🇦🇱 AlbaniaInternet Publishing
🇩🇿 AlgeriaBanking
🇦🇴 AngolaHuman Resources Services
🇦🇷 ArgentinaHuman Resources Services
🇦🇲 ArmeniaSoftware Development
🇦🇺 AustraliaGovernment Administration
🇦🇹 AustriaRetail
🇦🇿 AzerbaijanBanking
🇧🇭 BahrainStaffing and Recruiting
🇧🇩 BangladeshSoftware Development
🇧🇪 BelgiumStaffing and Recruiting
🇧🇴 BoliviaHuman Resources Services
🇧🇦 Bosnia and HerzegovinaSoftware Development
🇧🇷 BrazilTechnology, Information and Internet
🇧🇬 BulgariaIT Services and IT Consulting
🇰🇭 CambodiaHospitality
🇨🇦 CanadaHospitals and Health Care
🇰🇾 Cayman IslandsIT Services and IT Consulting
🇹🇩 ChadStaffing and Recruiting
🇯🇪 Channel Islands (Jersey)Financial Services
🇨🇱 ChileHuman Resources Services
🇨🇳 ChinaTechnology, Information and Internet
🇨🇴 ColombiaHuman Resources Services
🇨🇩 Congo (Democratic Republic of the)Hospitality
🇨🇷 Costa RicaIT Services and IT Consulting
🇭🇷 CroatiaIT Services and IT Consulting
🇨🇾 CyprusTechnology, Information and Internet
🇨🇿 Czech RepublicStaffing and Recruiting
🇩🇰 DenmarkRetail
🇩🇴 Dominican RepublicInsurance
🇪🇨 EcuadorIT Services and IT Consulting
🇪🇬 EgyptTechnology, Information and Internet
🇸🇻 El SalvadorHuman Resources Services
🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 EnglandStaffing and Recruiting
🇪🇪 EstoniaTechnology, Information and Internet
🇪🇹 EthiopiaSoftware Development
🇫🇮 FinlandIT Services and IT Consulting
🇫🇷 FranceStaffing and Recruiting
🇬🇫 French GuianaIT Services and IT Consulting
🇬🇪 GeorgiaStaffing and Recruiting
🇩🇪 GermanyStaffing and Recruiting
🇬🇭 GhanaHigher Education
🇬🇷 GreeceTechnology, Information and Internet
🇬🇵 GuadeloupeTechnology, Information and Internet
🇬🇹 GuatemalaHuman Resources Services
🇭🇹 HaitiStaffing and Recruiting
🇭🇳 HondurasIT Services and IT Consulting
🇭🇰 Hong Kong (SAR)Financial Services
🇭🇺 HungaryIT Services and IT Consulting
🇮🇸 IcelandHigher Education
🇮🇳 IndiaStaffing and Recruiting
🇮🇩 IndonesiaHospitality
🇮🇶 IraqDefense and Space Manufacturing
🇬🇧 Ireland (Northern)Staffing and Recruiting
🇮🇪 Ireland (Republic of)Staffing and Recruiting
🇮🇲 Isle of ManHuman Resources Services
🇮🇱 IsraelSoftware Development
🇮🇹 ItalyRetail
🇯🇲 JamaicaStaffing and Recruiting
🇯🇵 JapanIT Services and IT Consulting
🇯🇴 JordanTechnology, Information and Internet
🇰🇿 KazakhstanIT Services and IT Consulting
🇰🇪 KenyaSoftware Development
🇰🇼 KuwaitDefense and Space Manufacturing
🇰🇬 KyrgyzstanIT Services and IT Consulting
🇱🇻 LatviaIT Services and IT Consulting
🇱🇧 LebanonTechnology, Information and Internet
🇱🇮 LiechtensteinStaffing and Recruiting
🇱🇹 LithuaniaIT Services and IT Consulting
🇱🇺 LuxembourgStaffing and Recruiting
🇲🇴 MacaoHuman Resources Services
🇲🇰 Macedonia (North)Technology, Information and Internet
🇲🇾 MalaysiaFinancial Services
🇲🇹 MaltaTechnology, Information and Internet
🇲🇶 MartiniqueTechnology, Information and Internet
🇲🇺 MauritiusFinancial Services
🇲🇽 MexicoIT Services and IT Consulting
🇲🇩 MoldovaInternet Publishing
🇲🇨 MonacoStaffing and Recruiting
🇲🇦 MoroccoIT Services and IT Consulting
🇲🇲 MyanmarStaffing and Recruiting
🇳🇵 NepalSoftware Development
🇳🇱 NetherlandsStaffing and Recruiting
🇳🇿 New ZealandStaffing and Recruiting
🇳🇮 NicaraguaIT Services and IT Consulting
🇳🇬 NigeriaHuman Resources Services
🇳🇴 NorwayStaffing and Recruiting
🇴🇲 OmanStaffing and Recruiting
🇵🇰 PakistanSoftware Development
🇵🇦 PanamaIT Services and IT Consulting
🇵🇬 Papua New GuineaStaffing and Recruiting
🇵🇾 ParaguayTelecommunications
🇵🇪 PeruHuman Resources Services
🇵🇭 PhilippinesIT Services and IT Consulting
🇵🇱 PolandIT Services and IT Consulting
🇵🇹 PortugalIT Services and IT Consulting
🇵🇷 Puerto RicoRetail
🇶🇦 QatarStaffing and Recruiting
🇷🇪 ReunionBusiness Consulting and Services
🇷🇴 RomaniaIT Services and IT Consulting
🇷🇺 RussiaTechnology, Information and Internet
🇸🇭 Saint HelenaSoftware Development
🇸🇦 Saudi ArabiaStaffing and Recruiting
🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 ScotlandStaffing and Recruiting
🇸🇳 SenegalStaffing and Recruiting
🇷🇸 SerbiaIT Services and IT Consulting
🇸🇬 SingaporeStaffing and Recruiting
🇸🇰 SlovakiaIT Services and IT Consulting
🇸🇮 SloveniaTechnology, Information and Internet
🇿🇦 South AfricaStaffing and Recruiting
🇰🇷 South KoreaIT Services and IT Consulting
🇪🇸 SpainIT Services and IT Consulting
🇱🇰 Sri LankaIT Services and IT Consulting
🇸🇪 SwedenGovernment Administration
🇨🇭 SwitzerlandInternet Publishing
🇹🇼 TaiwanSoftware Development
🇹🇭 ThailandSoftware Development
🇹🇳 TunisiaSoftware Development
🇹🇷 TurkeySoftware Development
🇻🇮 U.S. Virgin IslandsIT Services and IT Consulting
🇺🇬 UgandaEducation Administration Programs
🇺🇦 UkraineSoftware Development
🇦🇪 United Arab EmiratesTransportation, Logistics, Supply Chain and Storage
🇬🇧 United KingdomConstruction
🇺🇸 United States of AmericaRestaurants
🇺🇾 UruguaySoftware Development
🇻🇪 VenezuelaConsumer Services
🇻🇳 VietnamSoftware Development
🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 WalesConstruction

Which countries or industries stand out the most to you?

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