US Service Sector Expands At Slower Rate In December

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. services companies expanded at a slower pace in December for the second straight month.

The Institute for Supply Management says its services index slipped last month to 55.9 from 57.4 in November. That follows a 60.1 reading in October, which was fastest pace of growth in a dozen years. Any reading above 50 signals expansion. The services sector has reported growth for 96 consecutive months, a positive sign for the overall U.S. economy.

Measures of business activity and new orders also fell last month, but they still remain in positive territory. The employment index rose by 1 percentage point.

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More than 70 percent of U.S. jobs comes from the service sector, so signs of continued expansion likely mean steady gains for the broader economy in the coming months.

-By Matt Ott, Associated Press

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