Survey: US services sector improved at best pace in 12 years

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    WASHINGTON | U.S. services companies in September expanded at the strongest rate in dozen years as a measure for new orders climbed sharply.

    The Institute for Supply Management says its services index rose last month to 59.8 from 55.3 in August.

    The September reading was the highest since August 2005. Any reading above 50 signals growth. The services sector has expanded for 93 straight months.

    New orders and business activity both rose last month, while a measure for employment improved slightly.

    Private service-sector workers account for more than 70 percent of American jobs. The improving conditions point to continued economic growth in the months ahead.