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Service sector expands more slowly in September, trade group says

NEW YORK (AP) _ The nation's service sector expanded at a slower pace in September than in August, reflecting managers' ongoing concern about the economy, interest rates and security issues, a trade group said Wednesday.

Tempe, Ariz.-based Institute for Supply Management said its index of business activity for the service sector, which equals about two-thirds of the nation's economic activity, registered 52.9 in September, well below August's reading of 57 and lower than the 56 that analysts were expecting.

A reading of 50 or more indicates expansion, while below 50 shows contraction. The September figure represented the 42nd consecutive month of growth but is the lowest reading in more than a year.

The service sector includes banking, construction, retailing and travel.

The service sector is healthy overall, with some weakness in real estate and construction, said John Albertine, an economist at Albertine Enterprises in Washington, D.C.

``If you look at the whole thing, the service sector is doing well. It's reasonably strong. I wouldn't claim it's robust,'' Albertine said.

The prices paid index rose at a slower rate in September with a reading of 56.7 versus 72.4 in August. The new orders index registered 57.2 while employment was at 53.6, with both growing more quickly than in August.
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