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The job market in the Buffalo Niagara region grew at its strongest pace in more than two years during June, powered by a wave of hiring at local stores, hotels and other seasonal venues.

The region added 6,300 jobs in the last year – a 1.1 percent gain since June 2013 – the fastest annual growth rate since March 2012, the state Labor Department reported Thursday.

“This is a really good start to the summer,” said John Slenker, the Labor Department’s regional economist in Buffalo.

But Slenker, who noted that the local job market has been on the upswing for four years, also said that it is too early to say whether June’s accelerated employment growth would continue into the summer.

“We’re going to have to wait to see if it continues,” Slenker said. “But the overall strength is good.”

The accelerated pace of hiring pushed employment levels to their highest for any June since 2008, just as the Great Recession was starting to take a toll on the job picture.

While the new figures show that the local job market continues to gain strength, its growth pales in comparison with the gains across the state and throughout the nation. Job growth locally is far slower than the 1.9 percent expansion across the country and is more than a quarter slower than the 1.5 percent employment gain statewide over the last year.

Even so, the region now has recovered 95 percent – all but 1,000 – of the 18,300 jobs that it lost during the recession, the Labor Department said.

All of the gains in hiring last month came from service companies, which expanded their employment at a 1.4 percent annual rate.

Hiring was brisk at local stores, where it grew by 1.9 percent over the last year, while jobs in educational services, mostly at local private schools, continued to expand briskly, with a 7.9 percent increase in the last year. Slenker said that some of the growth in educational services reflects a rise in the number of students in work-study jobs. Employment at leisure and hospitality firms grew by 2.6 percent as seasonal hiring picked up, while the number of professional and business services jobs grew by 1.9 percent.

Those gains offset continued weakness in the financial services sector, which shed 2.5 percent of its jobs between June 2013 and June 2014. Local manufacturers also continued to cut jobs, shedding positions at a 0.4 percent annual pace. Job growth in the private sector was slightly stronger than the overall gains, rising by 1.3 percent over the last year.

The job growth in Buffalo Niagara was more than double the 0.5 percent increase in employment across the 52 counties of upstate New York. Among the state’s 14 major metropolitan areas, Buffalo Niagara’s job growth was fifth-highest, trailing New York City, Poughkeepsie, Kingston, and Nassau and Suffolk counties.

email: drobinson@buffnews.com