Pedestrians carrying shopping bags cross a street in Georgetown neighborhood… (Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg )
WASHINGTON -- The service sector's expansion slowed last month from its fastest pace in a year in February, the Institute for Supply Management said Wednesday.
The firm's widely watched purchasing managers index was at 54.4 in March, suggesting a 39th straight month of growth in the service sector. But the figure was down from a 56 reading the previous month. Analysts had expected the index to drop to about 55.5.
A figure above 50 indicates the sector is growing.
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Specific ISM indexes that track new orders, prices and hiring in the service sector all were down in March from the previous month.
Wednesday's data on the service sector, the major driver of the U.S. economy, came after ISM reported Monday that manufacturing growth also slowed.
Fifteen of the 18 non-manufacturing sectors tracked by the index showed growth in March, including construction, retail trade and arts, entertainment and recreation.
The three sectors that appeared to be contracting were mining; healthcare and social assistance; and agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting.
The majority of purchasing managers in the survey were positive about business conditions but displayed "an underlying concern regarding the uncertainty of the future economy,” ISM said.
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