Utah's 1,964 bankruptcy filings in the first three months of this year were up 44 percent from the same time in 2007, according to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Utah.

As many as 95 percent of the 805 filings in March alone were by consumers, according to breakdowns supplied by the court. Consumers represented all but 27 of the 459 Chapter 7 filings last month. The court also reported 338 Chapter 13 filings, which are typically filed by individuals.

But businesses' bankruptcy filings also are coming in at a clip. The 26 Chapter 11 business bankruptcy filings recorded through Tuesday exceed the 24 filed in all of 2007, Utah bankruptcy court clerk David Sime said.

The reasons for filings vary. But Chapter 13 staff attorney Scott Blotter said he's seeing many tied to foreclosure.

"A lot of it's obvious — it's the mortgage issues plaguing the whole country," he said. "We're seeing people not able to refinance, and they're losing their homes because of that. They turn to us, trying to get relief for their debt."

Other factors also are at play: rising fuel and food costs, as well as the way a 2005 bankruptcy reform law works, Blotter said. Some people who have filed for bankruptcy are unable to meet the terms of debt-payment plans, because rising costs are cutting away at the money they have for food, transportation and mortgage payments. If those people's cases are dismissed as a result of their inability to meet the court-ordered payment plans, debtors may end up filing for bankruptcy again.

Consumers are increasingly filing for bankruptcy nationwide, and Utah ranks No. 8 for first-quarter increases, according to the National Bankruptcy Research Center (www.NBKRC.com). Utah's 1,867 consumer filings in the first quarter were 41 percent higher than the first quarter in 2007, the center reported.

California led the nation in consumer bankruptcy filings, with a 72 percent increase, the center said. California also has the second-highest foreclosure rate in the nation, with one in every 242 households in default or foreclosure.

Nationwide, 90,000 bankruptcy filings were recorded in March by the courts, a daily rate 30 percent higher than that recorded in 2007. Economists say the increase in bankruptcy filings is another indication that the U.S. economy is in a recession.

Contributing: Bloomberg News

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