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updated: 4/3/2014 9:57 AM

US service firms grow more quickly, hire more

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Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- U.S. service firms expanded more quickly last month as new orders rose and hiring increased, a positive sign that the economy is rebounding after an unusually cold winter.

The Institute for Supply Management says its service-sector index rose to 53.1 in March from 51.6 in February. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.

A measure of hiring jumped 6.1 points to 53.4, reversing most of a nine-point plunge that occurred in February that was mostly blamed on the weather. The increase is a hopeful sign just before the government's employment report for March, to be released Friday.

The survey covers businesses that employ 90 percent of the workforce, including retail, construction, health care and financial services firms.

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