News Summary: Slower growth for US service firms

News Summary: Reports show US service firms expand at slower pace, private hiring weakens

Associated Press

HINTS OF CAUTION: Two reports Wednesday showed that U.S. service companies grew at a slower pace in March and private employers pulled back on hiring. The declines suggest businesses may have grown more cautious last month.

SLOWER GROWTH: The Institute for Supply Management said its index of non-manufacturing activity fell to 54.4 from 56 in February. Any reading above 50 signals expansion. And payroll processor ADP said private employers added 158,000 jobs in March, down from 237,000 the previous month.

MARCH HIRING: The figures suggest that March job gains, to be reported Friday, will decline from February. But economists weren't overly concerned. ADP's report isn't considered as reliable as the more comprehensive government figures.

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