US service firms grow more slowly in October


WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. service companies grew at a slightly weaker pace in October than September because sales and new orders slowed. But a measure of employment rose, indicating services firms hired more.

The Institute for Supply Management said today that its index of non-manufacturing activity fell to 54.2. That's down from a six-month high of 55.1 in September. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.

The report measures growth in a broad range of businesses from retail and construction companies to health care and financial services firms. The industries covered employ about 90 percent of the work force.

A gauge of hiring rose to a seven-month high of 54.9. The government said Friday that services firms added 163,000 net jobs in October. It was the best showing since February and represented 95 percent of the jobs created last month.

October's ISM reading matched the 12-month average for the index. Overall, 13 industries reported growth and five contracted.

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