U.S. services firms grew more slowly in February compared with the previous month, but still expanded at a healthy clip.

The Institute for Supply Management says its services index slipped to 59.5, from 59.9 in January. The January reading was the highest since 2005. Any reading above 50 signals expansion.

A sharp drop in a gauge of employment, suggesting that companies are hiring workers at a much slower pace, pushed the index lower. The employment index fell to 55 from 61.6.

The services index measures sales, hiring and other activity among companies in a range of industries, including finance, construction, retail, health care and hotels.

Despite the small decline, the overall reading of the index points to an economy growing at a healthy pace.

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