Western states generally showed strong growth last year despite some weaknesses in Alaska and Arizona, according to a year-end roundup by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, parent bank of the Salt Lake City Fed branch.

Bank researcher Stephen Dean said total employment growth in the West slightly exceeded that of the nation in 1988 with contributions from most industrial sectors. Weakness was noted in fuel mining, finance, insurance and real estate.According to Dean, the overall strength was due to strong performances in several important sectors. An increase in demand for commercial aircraft bolstered the aerospace industry in the Pacific Northwest and Southern California and offset the effects of slower defense spending. Retail sales surged just before Christmas, and solid job gains continued in the services sector.

A rise in business services employment of 10.9 percent provided most of Utah's new jobs, said Dean, while rising mineral prices boosted metal mining employment by 50 percent in Idaho and 30 percent in Nevada.

"Brightening prospects in Utah and Idaho offset continued weakness in Alaska and Arizona," said Dean.

Researcher Carolyn Sherwood-Call said a slowdown in construction and real estate activities are the main sources of Arizona's weakness, whereas Alaska continues to be hurt by the slumping oil industry.

The economist traces Arizona's real estate problems to an overbuilt market aggravated by the Tax Reform Act of 1986 and slowing population growth. The act reduced the advantages of real estate limited partnerships, and hence real estate investment.

In addition to Utah, the nine states comprising the Fed's 12th District are Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.