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Civil aviation seen leading U.S. aerospace growth next year

US Airways and American Airlines signs are pictured at Philadelphia International Airport in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on December 9, 2013. REUTERS/Mark Makela

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. aerospace and defense industry expects sales to grow modestly in 2014, helped by the civilian sector, after a relatively flat performance in 2013 under the shadow of budget cutbacks, the industry's chief trade group said on Wednesday.

The Aerospace Industries Association forecast sales of $232.1 billion in 2014. That is up from $220.1 billion this year, which in turn will be down slightly from $222 billion in 2012.

Civil aircraft sales are seen rising to $72.1 billion in 2014, up from $67.0 billion this year.

U.S. aerospace exports grew by $12.5 billion this year, resulting in a $73.5 billion favorable balance of trade for the industry, up from $65.7 billion in 2012, the AIA said in its annual report. Export growth is forecast for the next several years due to a large backlog of civil aircraft orders.

Industry employment is forecast to have declined by 13,000 jobs to a total of 618,200 employees.

U.S. budget cuts, including the across-the-board cutbacks known as sequestration, are "clearly hurting our industry's skilled and professional workforce and ultimately may stifle U.S. global competitiveness," the group said.

The association said its major concern is erosion of the industry through further federal budget cuts called for through 2021 - about $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction, of which $500 billion would be absorbed by defense spending.

(Reporting by Jackie Frank; Editing by Ros Krasny and Jan Paschal)