STAMFORD -- Metro-North's New Haven Line ridership increased in 2010 to reach its second highest level ever in a continuing trend that officials believe is a sign of economic recovery for the region.

New Haven Line ridership grew 2.8 percent year over year according to railroad statistics, increasing from 36.3 million in 2009 to 37.2 million in 2010, with ridership growing every month year over year from April onward, according to the railroad.

The New Haven Line reached a record peak in 2008 of 38.2 million riders, a 3.7 percent jump which coincided with sharp increases in gasoline prices.

In 2010, Metro-North's three railways, the New Haven, Hudson, and Harlem lines reached a combined 81.1 million trips, also the second highest ever rate behind the 2008 record of 83.9 million.

"We're very gratified the trend we saw all of 2009 has reversed itself," Metro-North spokeswoman Marjorie Anders said. "We started climbing again and its continued throughout the year."

Metro-North President Howard Permut said it was notable that the number of trips grew the most from the outer New Haven Line stations to Grand Central Terminal, a group of stations encompassing Stamford to New Haven, grew five percent to 14.6 million trips.

"The Outer New Haven Line really led the way and buoyed the whole railroad despite the fact that we had an antique fleet that is not large enough to accommodate all of our customers comfortably," Permut said.

Systemwide, Metro-North trains arrived on time 97.7 percent of the time in 2010. On time is defined as pulling in within six minutes of a scheduled arrival.

In 2010, New York City labor economists measured strong enough job growth to indicate a partial economic recovery from steep job losses sustained in 2008 and 2009.

In 2010 in New York City, the financial services sector regained 5,300 of the 26,000 jobs lost in 2009, a category that includes hedge funds, banking and insurance jobs, according to statistics from the New York State Department of Labor.

New York City added 11,400 of the 24,000 professional and business service positions lost the year before, which includes the fields of law, accounting, architecture and information technology, according to statistics.

Leisure and hospitality jobs jumped 6,600 jobs and retail positions increased by 5,500 in 2010 -- two categories closely linked to high-paying jobs in finance and professional trades, statistics showed.

Anders said that officials expect a significant growth in ridership when the state's new M-8 cars go into service.

On Thursday night, Tim McCarthy, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's senior vice president of capital programs said that between 80 to 100 of the cars could be in service by the end of the year.

Connecticut Rail Commuter Council Chairman Jim Cameron said that the steady growth in commuter trips through 2010 was a welcome sign that the economy was perking up.

"It's usually a good barometer of the economy and the trend has been positive and good," Cameron said.