WASHINGTON - U.S. fuel demand rose in April as economic growth bolstered consumption of diesel by truckers, according to the American Petroleum Institute.

Total deliveries of petroleum products, a measure of demand, climbed 5.2 percent to 19.9 million barrels a day last month from a year earlier, the industry-funded group said today in a report.

"Product demand is growing, led by distillate," John Felmy, chief economist with the Washington-based API, said in a telephone interview. "Trucking tonnage is clearly up and that's led to a big increase in diesel demand. Growth varies by sector, because this is an uneven recovery."

Total demand for distillate fuel, a category that includes diesel and heating oil, rose 15 percent to 4.27 million barrels a day. Consumption of ultra-low sulfur diesel, the type used on highways, climbed 26 percent to average 3.42 million barrels a day, the report showed. Heating-oil use surged 96 percent to 741,000 barrels a day.

Gasoline pump prices were up 6.6 percent in April from the prior month, the report showed. Demand for the motor fuel declined 2.2 percent to 8.91 million barrels a day from the same month last year.

"Higher gasoline prices are damping demand," Felmy said. "This is just a price reaction."

Jet-fuel use climbed 1.9 percent to an average 1.42 million barrels a day last month compared with the same period in 2010.

U.S. crude-oil production slipped 0.5 percent to an average 5.47 million barrels a day. Output in the lower 48 states dropped 0.6 percent to 4.83 million barrels a day. Alaskan production increased 0.2 percent to 641,000 barrels a day.