Business activity in the U.S. Midwest expanded in December, a report showed on Friday, boosted by a rebound in customer demand.
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But the pace of hiring in the sector was the slowest it has been in more than three years.
The Institute for Supply Management-Chicago business barometer rose to 51.6 from 50.4. Economists polled by Reuters had expected a reading of 51.0.
A reading above 50 indicates expansion in the regional economy.
The forward-looking new orders gauge rebounded to 54.0 after slipping to a more than three-year low of 45.3 in November.
Employment, however, dropped to 45.9 in December, the lowest since November 2009. It stood at 55.2 last month.
(Reporting By Steven C. Johnson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)