Summary Box: Service sector growth accelerates

SERVICE FIRMS ACCELERATE: The service sector expanded at the fastest pace in more than 5 years, according to the Institute for Supply Management. The private trade group's report covers sectors that employ 90 percent of U.S. workers, including retail, health care and financial services.

MORE GOOD NEWS: Other positive data was released Thursday: retail sales are up, factories are busier, and fewer people are seeking unemployment benefits.

MORE HIRING: Economists are hopeful that this will translate into a big job gain when the January employment report is issued Friday. But bad winter weather could have held back hiring last month.