The services sector improved in January for the 48th straight month, according to the Institute for Supply Management's Report on Business released today. 

The Institute's Non-Manufacturing Index registered an overall 54% rating, up from December's 53%, and ever-so-slightly ahead of analyst expectations of 53.9%. An above-50 rating denotes growth, while less than 50 implies contraction.

The Index has been in growth territory since 2010, but readings during the past 12 months remain somewhat erratic.

ISM Non-Manufacturing Index Chart

ISM Non-Manufacturing Index data by YCharts. 

Diving deeper into index components, business activity added on 2.0 points to reach 56.3%, new orders inched ahead 0.5 points to 50.9%, and employment increased 0.8 points to 56.4%. Although backlog of orders rose three points, this component remains in contraction at 49%. New export orders also shrank, down 2.5 points to 49.0%.

Eleven services industries reported growth in January, led by company management and support services. Seven reported contractions, with mining recording the biggest dip of any industry.