NEW YORK (Reuters) - The pace of growth in the vast services sector slowed in April to its weakest pace in nine months, an industry report showed on Friday.
The Institute for Supply Management said its services index fell to 53.1 last month from 54.4 in March, short of economists' forecasts for 54. It was the lowest level since July.
A reading above 50 indicates expansion in the sector.
The employment index pulled back to 52 from 53.3, though new orders held up better, ticking down a hair to 54.5 from 54.6.
Domestic demand looked stronger than demand from abroad as imports grew to 58.5 from 57.5, while exports fell to 53.5 from 56.5. Inventories rose to 56 from 51.5.
Earlier on Friday the Labor Department's non-farm payrolls report showed employment rose more than expected in April, and that hiring was much stronger than previously thought in the prior two months.
However other recent data has shown that after reaccelerating in the first quarter, the economy might have cooled again heading into the second quarter, a pattern seen in recent years that has become known as the "spring swoon".
Reporting by Leah Schnurr; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama