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WASHINGTON, DC (AP) — The US service sector, which employs nearly 90 percent of the work force, grew in January at the fastest pace in five years, a sign that hiring could pick up soon.

The Institute for Supply Management, a private trade group, says its index of service sector activity rose to 59.4 last month, up from December’s reading of 57.1. That’s the 14th straight month of growth. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.

The report follows a strong reading on Monday from the institute’s manufacturing index for January, which rose to its highest level in nearly seven years.

The institute’s employment index rose to 54.5, the highest since May 2006. The employment indexes in the manufacturing and service sector indexes rose in January, a positive sign that hiring may be picking up.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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