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December 6, 2018 12:30 PM, EST

Service Industries Expand to Near-Record Level in November

Target Employee Julio Cortez/Associated Press

A gauge of U.S. service industries unexpectedly rose in November to a near-record level amid gains in business activity and new orders, adding to indications that the sector remains robust in the fourth quarter.

The non-manufacturing index rose to 60.7, an Institute for Supply Management survey showed Dec. 6. That compared with estimates for a decline to 59. The advance was led by business activity and new orders, while a gauge of inventories rose for a third month.

Target Employee

Employees preparing Christmas Tree displays. (Julio Cortez/Associated Press)

The index, with the second-highest reading since the series began publication in 2008, signals consumer demand for services continues to grow, helping to bolster the economy and U.S. companies. The report also indicated that continuing trade tensions and easing global growth are affecting service providers, a trend weighing on investors’ perceptions of the economic outlook.

Export orders decelerated by the most since May while a measure of imports rose the most since March. Service companies still face bottlenecks: a measure of backlogs increased, while supplier delivery times lengthened, though delays eased slightly. The employment gauge dropped for a second month even as it remained at a historically elevated level, signaling a solid but slightly cooling labor market before the jobs report due Dec. 7.