Service Sector Growth Rises Modestly in July

The pace of growth in the vast U.S. services sector edged up in July as new orders gained traction, but employment fell to its lowest level in nearly a year, according to an industry report released on Friday.

The Institute for Supply Management said its services index rose to 52.6 last month from 52.1 in June, topping economists' forecasts for 52.

A reading above 50 indicates expansion in the sector. Forward-looking new orders gained to 54.3 from 53.3, while exports climbed out of contraction territory, rising to 51 from 49.5.

But the employment gauge shrank, falling to its lowest level since September 2011 at 49.3 from 52.3. It was also the first the index has contracted since December.