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Big job gains at service firms are necessary to reduce the unemployment rate. The service sector includes low-paying positions in retail and restaurants. But it also has higher-paying jobs in professions such as information technology, accounting and financial services.

The job gains have come as growth has picked up. The economy expanded at an annual rate of 3 percent in the final three months of last year.

Still, the hiring gains have not resulted in bigger paychecks for most people. Income grew just 0.2 percent last month, matching January’s weak increase. And when taking inflation into account, income after taxes fell for a second straight month.