Worldwide semiconductor sales rose sharply last year, boosted by a strong demand for mobile gadgets such as smartphones and tablet computers.

Worldwide semiconductor sales rose 31.8 percent to $298.3 billion in 2010 compared with $226.3 billion sales in the previous year, the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) said on Monday.

“Semiconductor sales are a bright spot in our current economic picture, delivering a record high in the billions. The year-over-year growth is due in part to the increased use of semiconductor technology in a wider range of electronic devices that we have come to enjoy in modern life,” said Brian Toohey, president, SIA.

However, sales declined by 3 percent in December 2010 compared with a month earlier.

Overall, Asia-Pacific region represented 54 percent of global semiconductor sales, while the Americas accounted for 18 percent of the sales, SIA said.

Over the past five years, semiconductors have been the America’s top export, SIA added.

“Semiconductor design and manufacturing facilities are strategic to our nation’s economic growth. However, our industry is faced with fierce global competition and our policymakers and regulators must ensure that we have balanced tax, regulatory and trade policies to allow our industry to continue to flourish in the U.S. and remain America’s largest export industry,” Toohey concluded.

For 2011, the trade group forecasts single digit growth for the global semiconductor industry.