WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. service companies expanded at a healthy pace last month and stepped up hiring, though growth slowed a bit from the previous month.
The Institute for Supply Management, a private trade group, says its index of non-manufacturing activity dropped to 56 in March, down from February's 57.3. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.
The trade group of purchasing managers surveys roughly 90 percent of U.S. companies in all sectors outside of manufacturing. That includes retail, construction, financial services, health care, and hotels.
A measure of employment rose as more companies said they plan to add workers. That's a good sign ahead of Friday's jobs report for March.