US services hit record high in March

WASHINGTON — The US services sector, which employs most Americans, recorded record growth in March as the easing of coronavirus restrictions released pent-up consumer demand.

The Institute for Supply Management, an association of purchasing managers, reported Monday that its nonmanufacturing index rose to an all-time high 63.7 last month from 55.3 in February. The old record of 60.9 was set in October 2018.

New orders also hit a record, and hiring and prices grew faster.

Anything above 50 signals growth, and the services sector is on a 10-month winning streak since rebounding from the economic impact of the pandemic last spring. The March reading was much higher than economists had expected.

Although debate on economic policy often focuses on manufacturing, services — such as banks, retailers and restaurants — account for 71 per cent of all US jobs and 83 per cent of private jobs.