US services firms grew at slower pace in March

U.S. services companies saw their growth rate taper off in March, as hiring and business activity remained positive but dipped relative to February.

The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group for purchasing managers, says its services index fell to 55.2 last month from 57.6 in February. Any reading above 50 signals growth.

The services sector has now expanded for 87 straight months. But the employment reading dropped to 51.5 last month from 55.2 in Feburary, while business activity and production pulled back to a reading of 58.9 from a solid 63.6.

Fifteen services industries reported growth in March, including retailers, real estate and food services. But three sectors contracted: information, education and scientific and technical services.