US

US service sector expands at fastest pace in 8 months as new orders, sales jump

FILE - In this April 17, 2014 photo, Ryan Peterson prepares french fries at a Dick's Drive-In restaurant in Seattle. The Institute for Supply Management, a group of purchasing managers, issues its index of non-manufacturing activity for April on Monday, May 5, 2014.  (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

FILE - In this April 17, 2014 photo, Ryan Peterson prepares french fries at a Dick's Drive-In restaurant in Seattle. The Institute for Supply Management, a group of purchasing managers, issues its index of non-manufacturing activity for April on Monday, May 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)  (The Associated Press)

U.S. service firms grew more quickly last month as sales and new orders rose, adding to other evidence that the economy is picking up after a slow start to the year.

The Institute for Supply Management says its service-sector index rose to 55.2 in April from 53.1 in March. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.

The figures come after a healthy jobs report on Friday also fueled hopes for an improving economy. The government said employers added 288,000 jobs in April, the most in 2 ½ years, and the unemployment rate fell to 6.3 percent.

The better data represents a turnaround after the government said last week that the economy barely expanded in the first three months of the year.