February 4, 2015 / 3:09 PM / 4 years ago

U.S. service sector activity edges up in January

Workers spread asphalt on a street in the Cow Hollow neighborhood in San Francisco, California June 2, 2010. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A gauge of growth in the U.S. services sector was stronger than expected in January, though it remained near six-month lows as an index on employment declined sharply.

The Institute for Supply Management on Wednesday said its services index was 56.7 in January, up slightly from a revised 56.5 in December. Analysts were looking for a reading of 56.3, according to a Reuters poll.

The survey’s employment index fell to 51.6 from 55.7, while two other components, prices and order backlogs, were below the 50 level that separates expansion from contraction for a second straight month. A third component, imports, entered contraction territory for the first time since February 2014.

The rise in the overall index came from a strong rebound in business activity. That subindex rose from to 61.5, its highest level since September, from 58.6 in December to 61.5.

Reporting by Ryan Vlastelica; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli

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