The Mercury News

Service industries expand at record

- By Reade Pickert

U.S. service providers expanded in July at the fastest pace in records dating back to 1997 as measures of business activity, new orders and employment all improved.

The Institute for Supply Management’s services index jumped to 64.1 last month from 60.1 in June, topping all estimates in a Bloomberg survey of economists. Readings above 50 indicate expansion.

The figures underscore the massive vaccine-fueled snapback in demand for services like dining out and travel in recent months. A gauge of business activity jumped almost 7 points to a nearrecord 67 and new orders growth accelerate­d.

At the same time, global demand is picking up. New export orders for U.S. service providers expanded at the fastest pace since 2007.

Still, Wednesday’s report underscore­s how supply constraint­s are limiting faster growth in the pandemic-battered sector and pushing prices higher. Order backlogs — which rose to a record in June — remain elevated and inventorie­s contracted for a second straight month, indicating demand continues to outstrip supply.

Prices paid by service providers jumped to 82.3 last month, the highest level since September 2005. Meantime, delivery times lengthened, with a gauge of supplier deliveries rising to its second-highest reading on record.

There are hints that hiring obstacles may be lessening some. The employment index rose to 53.8 — indicating growth — after contractin­g in the prior month.

The figures surface ahead of Friday’s monthly employment report. Economists estimate 875,000 jobs were added in July, marking the biggest gain since August. A report earlier on Wednesday from ADP Research Institute showed payrolls at companies rose 330,000 in July, the smallest advance in five months and missing all estimates.

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