On a linked-quarter basis, the Company increased its provision for loan losses to $950,000 for the third quarter of 2010 from $650,000 in the second quarter of 2010 due primarily to the increase in nonperforming loans during the third quarter. However, the provision was down considerably from the $2,500,000 in the year-earlier quarter, primarily as a result of the significant decline in the relative amount of nonperforming loans versus total loans in the third quarter of 2010 compared with the year-earlier quarter. For the first nine months of 2010, the provision for loan losses was $2,100,000 versus $3,800,000 in the first nine months of 2009. At September 30, 2010, the allowance for loan losses represented 1.58% of total loans outstanding versus 1.55% of total loans outstanding at June 30, 2010, and 2.68% of total loans outstanding at September 30, 2009.
Noninterest income increased 10% to $2,478,000 for the third quarter of 2010 from $2,244,000 in the year-earlier quarter, primarily reflecting increases in service charges, fees and commissions as well as mortgage origination fees, in part related to the Company's acquisition of eight branch offices during the past year. These increases were partially offset by a reduction in gains on sale of securities. Noninterest income for the first nine months of 2010 increased 5% to $6,245,000 from $5,928,000 in the year-earlier period, reflecting similar trends.
Noninterest expense for the third quarter of 2010 increased 75% to $7,779,000 from $4,450,000 in the third quarter of 2009 and primarily reflected the addition of personnel and occupancy expenses associated with eight branch offices acquired during the past year, as well as those related to the opening of a de novo branch in Valdosta. In addition, the previously mentioned $1,000,000 impairment, as well as acquisition related data processing conversion expenses of $257,000, added to noninterest expense for the quarter. Noninterest expense for the nine months ended September 30, 2010, rose 39% to $18,508,000 compared with $13,307,000 for the year-earlier period. The Company's efficiency ratio was 102.57% and 90.48%, respectively, for the third quarter and nine months ended September 30, 2010, versus 74.79% and 80.09%, respectively, in the year-earlier period.