September 23, 2019 12:30 PM, EDT

IHS Markit Services Employment Gauge Dips Into Contraction

IHSDhiraj Singh/Bloomberg News

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A gauge of employment in U.S. service industries pointed to job losses for the first time in almost a decade, adding to signs of a cooling labor market.

The preliminary IHS Markit services purchasing managers’ index for employment fell to 49.1 in September, the lowest since December 2009, from 50.4 the prior month, according to data released Sept. 23. Readings below 50 indicate contraction. The overall services PMI rose by less than estimated to 50.9 from 50.7, while a similar gauge for manufacturing advanced to a five-month high of 51, exceeding analyst projections.

The figures suggest U.S. job gains will slow further, after the four-month average of hiring at companies fell to the lowest since 2012. Federal Reserve policymakers last week cut interest rates for the second time in two months as officials seek to protect the record-long expansion from global weakness and the trade war.

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“Firms have become more risk averse and increasingly eager to cut costs,” IHS Markit chief business economist Chris Williamson said in a statement. “At current levels, the survey employment index is indicative of nonfarm payroll growth falling below 100,000.”