- Associated Press - Sunday, April 20, 2014

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Bankruptcy filings in New Mexico dipped in 2013, continuing a downward trend that started in 2010.

The clerk’s office for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Albuquerque says the state overall had a rate of two bankruptcy filings per capita last year. The rate falls below the national average of 3.3, the Albuquerque Journal reported (http://bit.ly/1jWwxAI) Sunday.

The data shows Valencia County with the highest rate of the state’s 33 counties with a ratio of 2.8 filings.

Sandoval and Torrance counties came in second and third, respectively.

Bernalillo County, which includes Albuquerque, showed 2.5 filings per capita but hasn’t ranked in the top three in the last decade.

The number of filings tends to be higher in more urban areas, Bankruptcy Court Clerk Norman H. Meyer Jr. said. In big cities, employees are exposed to more fluid boom and bust cycles. Meyer said consumer credit is also more readily available in urban areas.

Dave Giddens, an Albuquerque bankruptcy lawyer, said getting counsel for bankruptcy is harder in the state’s rural areas.

“We do a fair number of long-distance cases. It’s more expensive for the client because of the travel,” Giddens said.

On the other hand, rural bankers tend to be flexible in helping customers get to the point of bankruptcy.

“We’ve had several cases in the past year-and-a-half, two years, where bankers have worked out an arrangement to avoid bankruptcy,” Giddens said.

Experts say higher unemployment rates and longer work commutes could be potential factors for the higher rates.

The 2008-2012 American Community Survey taken by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that different income levels, education levels and home values have also played roles. A median family income in Valencia County was $51,404 or 15 percent below Bernalillo’s, the survey data showed. Furthermore, about 23 percent of Valencia residents between ages 25 and 64 have at least an associate’s degree. About 39 percent of Bernalillo’s population has the same level of education.

A majority of Valencia’s housing sits in the bottom half of the real-estate market. The ACS survey found that 73 percent of owner-occupied housing is valued at less than $200,000, compared to 54 percent in Bernalillo.

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Information from: Albuquerque Journal, http://www.abqjournal.com

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