ISM services index falls to 51.6% in February

ISM index

U.S. service-sector companies expanded in February at a sharply slower pace and bad weather was only part of the problem, a survey of executives found.

The Institute for Supply Management said its nonmanufacturing index dropped to 51.6% last month from 54% in January. That was well below the 53% forecast of economists surveyed by . The employment gauge tumbled nearly 9 points to 47.5%, marking the lowest level since March 2010 as severe weather hindered hiring in some sectors such as construction and wholesale trade.

The ISM’s new-orders index edged up to 51.3% from 50.9%, while production slid 1.7 points to 54.6%. Ten of the industries tracked by ISM reported growth last month while eight recorded a decline. Readings over 50% indicate more companies are expanding instead of shrinking

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