Growth at US service firms jumps on new orders

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. service firms expanded in July at the fastest pace since February, fueled by a brisker month of sales and a jump in new orders.

The increase suggests economic growth could be picking up after a weak first half of the year.

The Institute for Supply Management said Monday that its index of service-sector growth rose in July to 56.0, up from 52.2 in June. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.

The survey covers businesses that employ 90 percent of the workforce, such as retail, construction, health care and financial services.

A measure of business activity, which includes current sales, rose to 60.4.

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