The services sector in March had its 50th consecutive month of improvement, according to the Institute for Supply Management's "Report on Business" released today. 

The Institute's nonmanufacturing index registered an overall 53.1% rating, up from February's 51.6% but below analyst expectations of 53.3%. An above-50 rating denotes growth, while less than 50 implies contraction.

Diving deeper into index components, business activity dropped off 1.2 percentage points to 53.4%, as several respondents noted the continued effect of February's rough weather on March's numbers. An arts, entertainment, and recreation respondent noted the "havoc" that cold weather played, while someone retail pointed to "harsh weather conditions."

Forward-looking indicators point to better times ahead. New orders advanced 2.1 percentage points to hit 53.4%, new export orders increased 2 points to 49.5%, and employment jumped 6.1 points to 53.6.%.  

Inventories dropped off 2.5 percentage points to 48% and order backlogs shaved off 0.5 points to clock in at 51.5%.

Thirteen services industries reported growth in March, led by agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting. Five industries reported contraction for March, with mining and educational services suffering the most sizable slumps.


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