Consumers flocked to hotels, restaurants, and theatres in March, but kept away from shopping malls and stores towards month's end. Here's a look at this week's economic developments and how they may impact your business.

Service Sector Sees Gains

More new orders and a dip in prices gave the nation's service sector an unexpected boost in March, the Institute of Supply Management said Thursday.

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Its monthly survey of about 370 non-manufacturing supply managers — those at hotels, restaurants, and banks, among other outlets — reported growth in 13 service-oriented industries in March, led by entertainment, utilities, mining, and insurance.

Managers in only four industries — agriculture, transportation, real estate, and health services — reported business as being the same or slower than February, the ISM said. New orders, supplier deliveries, inventories, new export orders, and imports also rose in March, the survey showed.

At the same time, managers said they are concerned about a continuing shortage of labor.
By contrast, the pace of growth in the manufacturing sector slowed in March, despite an increase in both production and orders, a separate ISM survey showed Monday.

The decline, which was blamed on higher prices, followed a sharp upturn in February brought on in part by warmer weather, the survey said.

Job Listings Increase

The number of jobs posted online continued to grow in March, employment website Monster Worldwide reported Thursday.

The monthly Monster Employment Index showed gains in all 23 job categories, led by accounting, auditing, and human resources, among other fields.

Shopping, Home Sales Drop

A later Easter holiday dragged down chain store sales during the final week in March, the International Council of Shopping Centers said Thursday.

Despite the slow week, same-store sales for March as a whole are expected to show an increase of up to 3 percent over last year, said Michael Niemira, the council’s chief economist.

Pending home sales also fell in February, the National Association of Realtors reported Monday.
The group's Pending Home Sale Index, which tracks sales contracts signed for existing family units, condos, and co-ops, dropped 0.8 percent to 117.7 in February, from a revised 118.6 the previous month, the report showed.

At the same time, construction spending rose by 0.8 percent in February to an annual rate of $1,185.4 billion, the Commerce Department said Monday.

The gains include a 1.3 percent increase in residential construction, the department reported.

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