Growth in the vast U.S. services sector expanded in October a bit more than economists had expected, including a slight gain in employment, according to an industry survey published Wednesday.

The Institute for Supply Management's (searchnon-manufacturing index (search) rose to 59.8 in October from 56.7 in September, above Wall Street's median estimate for a reading of 58.0.

A number above 50 indicates growth in the sector, which accounts for about 80 percent of the U.S. economy and includes everything from restaurants and hotels to banks and airlines.

The survey's employment index rose to 55.8 from 54.6 in September, while the measure of new orders rose to 60.5 from 58.5. The prices paid index climbed to 74.1 in October from 67.1 in September.

"It looks like the service sector strengthened a bit, indicating broader activity," said Gary Thayer, chief economist at A.G. Edwards & Sons (search) in St. Louis, Missouri.

"Orders looked a little bit better and employment looked a little better. It looks to me as if the economy started the fourth quarter with continued good momentum from the third quarter," he said.

U.S. Treasury debt prices briefly shaved losses following the release of the data, then returned to previous levels, down sharply on the day.