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February was another good month for the non-manufacturing, or services, sector of the economy.

The Institute for Supply Management reports the the NMI rose 1.1% last month to 57.6% -- the highest reading since October 2015, and the 86th consecutive month of growth.

A reading above 50% signals expansion, while anything below that suggests contraction.

The Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index jumped 3.3% to 63.6%, the highest reading since February 2011. The New Orders Index registered 61.2%, 2.6% higher than January and the highest reading since August 2015.

The Employment Index inched ahead 0.5% to 55.2%, and the Prices Index fell 1.3% to 57.7%, indicating that prices increased, but at a slower rate, for the 11th month in a row.

Industry performance

The 16 non-manufacturing industries reporting growth in February were:

  1. Utilities;
  2. Mining;
  3. Management of Companies & Support Services;
  4. Other Services;
  5. Accommodation & Food Services;
  6. Health Care & Social Assistance;
  7. Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting;
  8. Professional, Scientific & Technical Services;
  9. Finance & Insurance;
  10. Public Administration;
  11. Educational Services;
  12. Wholesale Trade;
  13. Arts, Entertainment & Recreation;
  14. Retail Trade;
  15. Transportation & Warehousing; and
  16. Construction.

The two industries reporting contraction in February were:

  1. Real Estate, Rental & Leasing; and
  2. Information.
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Jobless claims

From the Department of Labor (DOL), word that initial applications for state unemployment benefits fell by 19,000 in the week ending February 25 to a seasonally adjusted 223,000. That's the lowest level for initial claims since March 31, 1973.

The level for the previous week was revised lower by 2,000 to 242,000.

The four-week moving average was down 6,250 from the previous week to 234,250 -- the lowest level since April 14, 1973.

The previous week's average was revised down from 241,000 to 240,500.

The complete report may be found on the DOL website.

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