Service sector growth picks up pace in April

The nation's service sector grew in April at the fastest pace in eight months as the economy showed signs of strength after a less-than-impressive winter. 

The Institute for Supply Management's index expanded to 55.2 from 53.1 in April, the best showing since August on improved sales and new orders, the group of purchasing executives said Monday. 

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Any index reading above 50 reflects growth. 

The measure of business sales and production rose to 60.9, 7.5 points above March's figure. New orders hit 58.2, 4.8 points better than the previous month, another indication that the growth will continue into the summer and provide a boost for the overall economic recovery.

Respondents said the warmer weather was a factor in the better numbers as the economy and business conditions improve. 

One respondent said "traffic and sales are up due to break in weather."

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

The index is a survey of a wide variety of businesses — the sector employs 90 percent of all workers, including those employed at restaurants, hotels and retailers.

The figures come after the government reported on Friday that employers added 288,000 jobs in April the most since January 2012, while the unemployment rate fell to a five-year low.

The index shows that the pace of hiring slowed although it continued growing.

Last week, the ISM reported that manufacturing also improved at a faster rate in April.