US service firms grew at fastest pace since fall 2018

FILE - In this Nov. 9, 2018, file photo, Laurence Marzo, left, and Ty Ford, right, move a conveyor belt into place to help unload a truck carrying merchandise at a Walmart Supercenter in Houston. Ford has worked at Walmart in Houston for eight years, most recently overseeing workers tasked with unloading the trucks. On Tuesday, March 5, 2019, the Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, issues its index of non-manufacturing activity for February. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)
FILE- In this Nov. 9, 2018, file photo Walmart associates stock a frozen meat section at a Walmart Supercenter in Houston. On Tuesday, March 5, 2019, the Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, issues its index of non-manufacturing activity for February. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

WASHINGTON — U.S. service companies grew in February at the fastest pace in three months, rebounding after a decline in January.

The Institute for Supply Management, an association of purchasing managers, reports that its service index rose to 59.7 percent last month, up from 56.7 percent in January. The January reading was the lowest since July 2018, depressed by concern over the impact of the partial government shutdown on the economy, which ended Jan. 25 after 35 days.

The February gauge was the highest since November.

Any reading above 50 signals growth. The index shows that service industries, where most Americans work, have been expanding for 109 consecutive months. ISM says that executives of service companies are concerned about U.S. trade disputes, but they remain optimistic about overall business conditions.

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