ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Consumer bankruptcies decreased 6 percent nationwide in the first quarter of 2011 compared to the year-ago period, according to the American Bankruptcy Institute (ABI).

The data showed that the overall consumer filing total for the first three months of 2011 reached 340,012, down from the 363,215 consumer filings recorded for the first quarter of 2010.

“Though bankruptcy filings are still elevated, consumers continue to take steps to reduce debt levels and shore up their finances,” said ABI Executive Director Samuel J. Gerdano. “As a result, we now expect that consumer bankruptcy filings will dip below the 1.5 million filings recorded last year.”

A month-by-month look at the data showed that the overall consumer filing total for March reached 144,657, up from the 102,686 consumer filings recorded in February 2011. Though an increase from the previous month, the March 2011 consumer bankruptcy total represents a 3 percent decrease from the 149,268 filings recorded in March 2010. Chapter 13 filings constituted 26 percent of all consumer cases in March, a slight decrease from February.