Business failures in Utah and other Mountain States increased in the first nine months of this year but at a rate well below many other regions of the country, particularly the New England and Middle Atlantic states.

According to figures compiled by business information firm Dun & Bradstreet for January through September, Utah had a 20.6 percent increase in failures during the first three quarters, from 218 in 1989 to 263.But liabilities held by the failed Utah firms soared 835.7 percent from $3.93 million to $36.78 million, says D&B. By contrast, Wyoming had a 50.6 percent increase in failures but liabilities increased only 30.7 percent.

Among the eight states D&B lists in its Mountain region, only Montana, New Mexico and Arizona had a decline in bankruptcies this year - down 2.7 percent, 11.0 percent and 31.0 percent, respectively.

As a region, the Mountain States logged a relatively modest 5.3 percent increase in failures - from 3,366 for the period last year to 3,544 in 1990 - compared with 14.5 percent for the nation overall.

And certain regions fared much worse. D&B economist Joseph W. Duncan said combined failures in the New England and Middle Atlantic regions rose more than 90 percent in the first nine months.

"Every industry and every state in these two regions reported sharp increases in business failures, reflecting building economic stress throughout the Northeast," he said.

Overall, said Duncan, U.S. business failures increased 14.5 percent to 43,836 from 38,296 in the first nine months, after three years of steady declines. Only two of the nation's nine U.S. Census regions reported decreases in failures during the period: the East North Central and Pacific regions.

"In addition to the dramatic increase in the Northeast, failures are up across the United States signaling weakness in the U.S. economy overall," said Duncan.

Duncan said that not only was there a sharp increase in the number of failures, the dollar amount of liabilities associated with the bankruptcies also soared, indicating a rise in the number of large businesses filing for bankruptcy.

On an industry basis, overall U.S. failures were up in every major industry sector, with the exception mining, where failures fell 4.8 percent to 257 from 270. Finance, insurance and real estate sectors had the largest increase, up 31.1 percent to 2,767 in the first nine months 2,111 in the same period of 1989, when failures were also at high levels.

"There is strong evidence of ongoing stress due to the savings and loan crisis," said Duncan, "as well as the depressed real estate market, as the upward trend in finance, insurance and real estate failures continued to mount in most of the United States."

Manufacturing failures also increased sharply, up 19.5 percent to 3,469 from 2,904; wholesale trade failures were up 13.4 percent to 3,106 from 2,740; failures among retail establishments increased 12.5 percent to 9,372 from 8,329; services failures were up 8.5 percent to 14,777 from 13,615; construction failures increased 10.8 percent, to 5,857 from 5,285; transportation and public utilities failures increased 20.1 percent to 1,826 from 1,520.

During the first nine months of 1990, the New England states reported the sharpest increase in business failures, up 192.8 percent to 2,196 from 750 in the same period a year ago. While every state in the region reported substantial gains in failures, the most dramatic increase occurred in Massachusetts, where failures more than tripled - up 261 percent to 1,426 from 395.