US Service Firms' Growth Hits 11-month High In Jan

Published February 3, 2012 3:18PM (EST)

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. service companies grew at the fastest pace in 11 months in January as companies hired more workers to keep up with rising demand.

The Institute for Supply Management says its index of non-manufacturing activity jumped to 56.8 percent in January from 53 percent in December. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.

The trade group of purchasing managers surveys businesses including restaurants, hotels, retailers, financial services firms and construction companies.

The service sector has been growing for two straight years. But hiring had stagnated, with the employment index falling below 50 in two of the past four months. That number soared last month to 57.4 percent, the highest reading since February 2006.

Service-sector growth edged up in December after staying flat for three straight months.

By Salon Staff

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