Business

Growth at US service firms slows from 8-year high

About 90 percent of the workforce is employed by a service industry, such as the restaurant business.

Don Ryan/Associated Press

About 90 percent of the workforce is employed by a service industry, such as the restaurant business.

WASHINGTON — Growth at service companies slowed in September from an eight-year high in August as sales fell sharply, new orders declined, and hiring weakened.

The Institute of Supply Management said its service-sector index fell to 54.4 in September, down from 58.6. August’s reading was the highest since December 2005.

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Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.

Service industries cover 90 percent of the workforce, including retail, construction, health care, and financial services.

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The ‘‘index still points to moderate growth in the fourth quarter,’’ said Paul Ashworth, an economist at Capital Economics.

Ashworth forecasts growth in the October-December quarter at an annual rate of 2 to 2.5 percent. That would be slightly better than the 1.5 to 2 percent rate economists predict for the July-September quarter.

Ashworth said the fourth-quarter growth rate assumes the US government shutdown lasts no more than two weeks.

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If it persists, the shutdown could shave about 0.15 percentage points from the fourth-quarter figure for each week it lasts, according to estimates from a number of economists.

Associated Press

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