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News : US Economy Last Updated: Mar 3, 2011 - 4:08 PM

US services activity grew in February for the 15th straight month; Weekly jobless claims fell
By Finfacts Team
Mar 3, 2011 - 3:59 PM

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Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis greets a worker from Fluor Corporation during a shift change at the Detroit Heavy Oil Upgrader Project in Detroit, Michigan, Feb. 2011.

US services activity grew in February for the 15th straight month; weekly jobless claims fell last week and strong labour productivity data for the fourth quarter was confirmed.

US services activity grew in February for the 15th consecutive month, say the nation's purchasing and supply executives in the latest Non-Manufacturing ISM Report On Business.

Anthony Nieves, C.P.M., CFPM, chair of the Institute for Supply Management Non-Manufacturing Business Survey Committee commented:
"The NMI registered 59.7% in February, 0.3 percentage point higher than the 59.4% registered in January, and indicating continued growth in the non-manufacturing sector. The Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index increased 2.3 percentage points to 66.9%, reflecting growth for the 19th consecutive month and at a faster rate than in January.

The New Orders Index decreased 0.5%age point to 64.4%, and the Employment Index increased 1.1 percentage points to 55.6%, indicating growth in employment for the sixth consecutive month and at a faster rate. The Prices Index increased 1.2 percentage points to 73.3%, indicating that prices increased at a faster rate in February. According to the NMI, 13 non-manufacturing industries reported growth in February. Respondents' comments overall are mostly positive about business conditions and the direction of the economy."

The 13 industries reporting growth in February based on the NMI composite index — listed in order - - are: Real Estate, Rental & Leasing; Accommodation & Food Services; Mining; Utilities; Professional, Scientific & Technical Services; Educational Services; Transportation & Warehousing; Finance & Insurance; Other Services; Public Administration; Wholesale Trade; Management of Companies & Support Services; and Retail Trade. The five industries reporting contraction in February are: Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting; Construction; Health Care & Social Assistance; Arts, Entertainment & Recreation; and Information.

Employment activity in the non-manufacturing sector grew in February, as ISM's Non-Manufacturing Employment Index registered 55.6%. This reflects an increase of 1.1%age points when compared to the 54.5% registered in January. Nine industries reported increased employment, five industries reported decreased employment, and four industries reported unchanged employment compared to January. Comments from respondents include: "Starting to fill positions reduced from 2009/2010 season" and "To handle the new influx of sales and sales activity."

US Weekly Jobless Claims

The Department of Labor said today that in the week ending Feb. 26, the figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 368,000, a decrease of 20,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 388,000. The 4-week moving average was 388,500, a decrease of 12,750 from the previous week's revised average of 401,250.

The number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending Feb.19 was 3,774,000, a decrease of 59,000 from the preceding week's revised level of 3,833,000. The 4-week moving average was 3,863,750, a decrease of 40,500 from the preceding week's revised average of 3,904,250.

The monthly employment report will be published on Friday.

 US Productivity

US productivity rose in line with previous estimates during the fourth quarter, as companies continued to expand activity while keeping a control on labour costs.

The Department of Labor reported that nonfarm business productivity rose at a 2.6% annual rate in the October to December period, the same rate as previously estimated.

Unit labour costs fell at a 0.6% annual rate last quarter, also unchanged from the initial estimate.

New unemployment claims unexpectedly fell last week, slipping further below a key level associated with an acceleration in job creation, with CNBC's Rick Santelli:

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