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US service firms grow at fastest pace since August

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. service firms grew more quickly last month as sales and new orders rose, adding to other evidence that the economy is picking up after a slow start to the year.

The Institute for Supply Management says its service-sector index rose to 55.2 in April from 53.1 in March. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.

The figures come after a healthy jobs report on Friday also fueled hopes for an improving economy. The government said employers added 288,000 jobs in April, the most in 2 { years, and the unemployment rate fell to 6.3 percent.

The better data represents a turnaround after the government said last week that the economy barely expanded in the first three months of the year.

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