Companies in the U.S. service sector such as insurers and real-estate firms grew at a slightly faster pace in February and beefed up employment, according to survey of senior executives. The Institute for Supply Management said its nonmanufacturing index edged up to 56.9% from 56.7% in January. Readings over 50% signal that more businesses are expanding instead of contracting. The survey is compiled from a questionnaire of the executives who buy supplies for their companies and it tends to rise in fall in tandem with the broader economy. The new orders index fell 2.8 points to 56.7%, but the employment gauge climbed 4.8 points to 56.4%, a sign that more companies plan to hire. That's the highest rate since last July.
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