ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — There’s a sign that a crucial industry for New Jersey is regaining its momentum.

Tourists spent $38 billion in New Jersey in 2011, a 7 percent increase from the year before, and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno released the figures at a state tourism conference in Atlantic City Thursday.

About 80 million visitors came to New Jersey last year, an increase of more than 14 percent from 2010.

Employment related to tourism accounted for 312,000 jobs and $9.56 billion in wages last year.

The state’s all-time high for tourism spending came in 2007, just before the recession hit, when it reached $39.5 billion.

Tourism is New Jersey’s third largest industry, after pharmaceuticals and chemicals.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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