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U.S. service sector expands at much slower pace

- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 4, 2011

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. service sector, which employs nearly 90 percent of the nation's workforce, grew for the 17th straight month in April, though at the slowest pace since August.

The Institute for Supply Management, a private trade group of purchasing executives, said its index of service-sector business activity dropped to 52.8 last month. That's down from 57.3 in March and a five-year high of 59.7 in February. Any reading over 50 indicates expansion.

The index covers a range of industries, including retail, health care, financial services and construction. It plummeted to 37.6 in November 2008 at the height of the financial crisis. The sector contracted for all but three months in 2009. A measure of employment fell for the second straight month.

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