WASHINGTON -- The nation's service sector expanded last month at a slightly faster pace than in October as new orders offset a dip in hiring.
The Institute for Supply Management's purchasing managers' index rose to 54.7 in November, up 0.5 from the previous month, the group said Wednesday. A reading above 50 indicates growth, and November marked the 35th straight month of expansion.
Analysts had expected the pace of growth to slow last month to about 53.5.
ISM reported Tuesday that the manufacturing sector contracted in November for the first time in three months, though Hurricane Sandy might have caused the reading to fall to its lowest level since 2009.
The crucial service sector appeared more resilient in the face of the storm's devastating effect in the Northeast.
The group's index of new orders was up 3.3 points in November from the previous month. But hiring slipped as the employment index dropped 4.6 points to 50.3, indicating continued job growth for the fourth straight month but at a slower pace than in October.
Comments from companies in the survey reflected "cautious optimism about current economic conditions,” ISM said.