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Hiring slowed a bit during December in the Buffalo Niagara region, which still finished 2013 with the second-strongest job gains since the Great Recession.

The region added jobs at an annual pace of 0.9 percent during December, a modest slowdown from job growth that had topped 1 percent during the previous two months but still enough to be the fourth-strongest month for job growth in 2013, according to data released Thursday by the state Labor Department.

The December job gains capped a year of modest job growth for the region, averaging 0.8 percent for the entire year. That was better than the 0.7 percent increase last year but slower than the gain of just under 1 percent in 2012. Going back to the end of the 2000 recession, the region’s job gains last year were the third-strongest in the past 13 years, based on the Labor Department’s preliminary data, which will be revised in early March.

“It’s good to end the year on a positive note,” said John Slenker, the Labor Department’s regional economist in Buffalo.

For the second straight month, the region’s December total of 556,900 jobs topped its peak heading into the Great Recession, which started in late 2007. The region has never recovered all of the jobs it lost during the 2000 recession and still is 9,000 jobs below its 1999 peak.

All of the job growth during December came from the private sector, which added jobs at a 1.2 percent annual pace. That offset continued weakness at government employers, which shed 200 jobs over the past year.

The construction and financial sectors led the way in the December hiring, with each growing by more than 3 percent over the past year. On the downside, the manufacturing and information sectors each shrunk by 1 percent, while leisure and hospitality jobs fell by 2.5 percent.

“This is a very broad recovery,” Slenker said. “The private sector has been doing very well.”

Job growth locally, while strong by recent historical standards, still was well behind the gains enjoyed by the rest of the state and across the country. Job growth here was only a little more than half the national growth rate of 1.6 percent and lagged behind the statewide gain of 1.1 percent.

The December job gains put the Buffalo Niagara region in the middle of the pack among New York’s 14 major metropolitan areas. Job growth was fastest downstate, topping 2 percent in both New York City and Nassau and Suffolk counties. The pace of hiring also was stronger in Glens Falls, Syracuse and Utica.

Hiring was weak in the rural counties of Western New York. Cattaraugus County lost jobs at a 0.3 percent annual pace, while the decline was 0.2 percent in Chautauqua County. Hiring was flat in Allegany County. Job growth hit 0.5 percent in Genesee County and reached 0.7 percent in Wyoming County.

email: drobinson@buffnews.com