ALEXANDRIA, Va. — As escalating household debt has continued its grip throughout the first quarter of 2008, bankruptcy filings in the U.S. have remained on a steep climb, according to the American Bankruptcy Institute.

Citing data from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, ABI indicated that the total number of bankruptcies filed during the first quarter of 2008 was 245,695, which is 26.9 percent more than the same period of 2007.

Moreover, first-quarter filings were up 8.5 percent from the fourth quarter of 2007, the data pointed out.

"This ninth consecutive quarterly increase in filings since Congress attempted to restrict access to bankruptcy relief demonstrates again the influence of rising household debt," explained Samuel Gerdano, ABI executive director. "We expect filings to surge past 1 million cases by year-end."

According to officials, there were 110 percent more filings in the first quarter of 2008 than in the same time frame of 2006, which is the first full quarter after the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 went into effect.

Breaking it down, ABI noted that consumer filings reached 236,982 for the first quarter, an 8.5-percent jump from the previous quarter and a 26.5-percent climb from the same period a year ago.

ABI explained that the percentage of consumers filing for Chapter 13 protection during the quarter dipped to 35.6 percent, compared with 39.3 percent in the first quarter of 2007.

Meanwhile, the number of consumers filing for Chapter 7 protection climbed significantly, rising to 64.4 percent. ABI noted that this was the largest percentage of Chapter 7 filings since BAPCPA was implemented.

Moving on, business bankruptcy filings in the quarter grew 38.7 percent compared with the same period of 2007, as they reached 8,713. They were also up 9.1 percent from the previous quarter.

ABI also provided a chapter breakdown for the quarter, as follow:

Consumer filings

Chapter 7: 152,543

Chapter 11: 200

Chapter 13: 84,239

Business filings

Chapter 7: 5,959

Chapter 11: 1,182

Chapter 12: 81

Chapter 13: 858

Looking at the 12-month period ending March 31, ABI reported that total filings were 901,927, up 29.7 percent from the same time frame of 2007.

Non-business filings for the 12-month period increased 29.3 percent to 871,186, and business filings climbed 40 percent to 30,741.

Breaking it down further, there were 35.5 percent more Chapter 7 filings during the 12-month period ending March 31, as they reached 560,015, officials noted.

Chapter 13 filings climbed 20.9 percent to 334,551 during the 12-month time frame. Chapter 11 filings were up 34.1 percent to 6,971, while Chapter 12 filings fell 8.5 percent to 343.

According to ABI, the districts with the highest percentage increase in total filings for the 12-month period were as follows:

1. Eastern District of California: 83.2 percent

2. District of Nevada: 82.1 percent

3. Central District of California: 79 percent

4. Southern District of California: 68.3 percent

Below are the districts with the biggest decreases:

1. District of the Northern Mariana Islands: 38.1 percent

2. District of the Virgin Islands: 4.2 percent

3. Northern District of New York: 2.2 percent

4. District of Guam: 0.8 percent