(Reuters) - Atlantic County, home to New Jersey's fiscally distressed gambling hub Atlantic City, had the highest foreclosure rate of any major U.S. metropolitan area in the first quarter of 2016, according to RealtyTrac data released on Thursday.
One in every 106 housing units in Atlantic County had a foreclosure filing in the first quarter, compared to a nationwide rate of one filing per 459 homes.
The area has been hit hard by the closure of four Atlantic City casinos in 2014, which remain shuttered. It also had the highest metro foreclosure rate for all of 2015.
Trenton, New Jersey's capital city, had the second-highest metro foreclosure rate in the nation in the first quarter and Baltimore, Maryland, came in third.
As a state, New Jersey had one foreclosure filing for every 216 housing units, the second-worst rate of all U.S. states, behind only Maryland, where one in every 194 units had a filing, the RealtyTrac data showed.
Nationally, foreclosure activity bumped higher seasonally in March, but most markets continue to improve to more stable levels, said RealtyTrac senior vice president Daren Blomquist in a statement.
More than a third of the 216 local markets examined were below their pre-recession foreclosure averages in the first quarter.
"We would expect a growing number of markets to move below that milestone the rest of this year, while the number of markets with a lingering low-grade fever of foreclosure activity continues to shrink," he said.
Despite the overall improvement, other weak spots include several New York state areas. Syracuse, Utica-Rome and Binghamton were among a half dozen metro areas that reached new foreclosure activity peak levels, according to the data.
(Reporting by Hilary Russ in New York; Editing by James Dalgleish)