Services Firms Grew at Slower Pace

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. services companies grew at a slower pace in October, although the economy appears poised to continue expanding.

The Institute for Supply Management said Thursday that its services index fell to 54.8 last month, down from 57.1 in September. Still, any reading above 50 signals growth.

New orders, production, and employment were positive in October, although each of these categories decelerated. The firms surveyed for the index largely reported growth, although one health care company noted some "uncertainty" due to the impact of rising Obamacare costs and another food company noted some trouble from rising avocado prices.

Services firms have now grown for 81 straight months. These companies account for the bulk of employers and economic activity, shielding many workers from the slowdown in manufacturing earlier this year.

The ISM is a trade group of purchasing managers. Its services survey covers businesses that employ the vast majority of workers, including retail, health care and financial companies.

(KA)