The hopeful showing resulted from a surge in Asia, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association, whose monthly survey is a leading indicator of industry health.
"May's global sales numbers are a clear indication of the positive and solid growth of our industry," George Scalise, SIA president, said in a prepared statement.
"We are pleased to report that the worldwide semiconductor sales have reached a double-digit increase from last year, not to mention the dramatic 15.3 percent increase in sales that the Japan market has made from 1998," the statement said. Overall, Asian sales grew by 18 percent.
The numbers help confirm a number of predictions from executives and analysts that the chip industry has entered a sustainable cyclical recovery, following a series of lean years. Another factoid supporting that contention: orders for raw silicon wafers have shot up in the last few weeks, according to one analyst.
Still, despite the growth in year-to-year comparisons, sequential growth was less spectacular. Chip sales in the Americas improved 0.6 percent from April to May and Japanese sales increased 0.9 percent.
The Asia Pacific market posted the largest month-to-month increase of 4.3 percent in sales. Europe, meanwhile, posted a 2.8 percent decline from last month.