updated 4/15/2008 9:17:00 PM ET 2008-04-16T01:17:00

Bankruptcy filings jumped 38 percent last year compared with 2006, as many consumers struggled with higher mortgage payments and other debt loads, a nonprofit group said Tuesday.

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The increase follows a significant drop in bankruptcy filings in 2006, after a new law made it more difficult for consumers to seek bankruptcy protection from creditors.

Total bankruptcy filings rose to 850,912 in 2007, from 617,660 the previous year, the American Bankruptcy Institute said, citing data from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

The ABI, whose members include lawyers, bankers, judges and lenders, in January had estimated that filings increased 40 percent based on data from a private research group.

Despite the increase, that's still below the levels earlier this decade, when bankruptcies averaged 1.5 million annually.

Consumer bankruptcy filings rose to 822,590, up 37.6 percent from 597,965 in 2006. Business bankruptcies, meanwhile, increased 44 percent to 28,322 last year from a record low of 19,695 in 2006, the ABI said.

Business filings averaged 35,293 in the decade ending in 2007, the ABI said.

Retailers are among those that have been hard hit by the economic slowdown, and many have filed for bankruptcy protection, including Sharper Image Corp. and Lillian Vernon Corp.

The largest increases in filings came from California and Nevada, the ABI said, where the real estate bust has hit particularly hard. Bankruptcy filings jumped 98.5 percent in Nevada, the group said, while they increased by almost 94 percent in the federal court district in eastern California, which includes Sacramento and Fresno.

According to the report, the 10 states with the highest per capita filing rates were: Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Nevada, Arkansas, Kentucky and Mississippi.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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