UK service sector growth slows, PMI figures show
The UK's dominant service sector grew in February, but not as quickly as had been expected, according to a closely-watched survey.
TheMarkit/CIPS services purchasing managers' index(PMI) fell to 53.8 last month from 56 in January. A number above 50 indicates growth.
Business confidence also reached its highest level for a year.
PMI data released last week showed a slowdown in manufacturing growth but a pick-up in the construction sector.
"Despite seeing some loss of momentum in February, the service sector continued to grow at a robust pace, adding to signs that a double-dip recession will be avoided," said Chris Williamson, chief economist at survey compilers Markit.
However, the improvements have not resulted in a significant increase in employment, according to Markit, with businesses reluctant to take on new staff and forced to offer discounts in order to grow.
"Employment levels are likely to stay broadly flat until there is a more pronounced and sustained growth in activity," said David Noble, chief executive officer at the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply.
A separate report from the British Chambers of Commerce. also released on Monday, predicted that the UK would avoid a double-dip recession, but warned that growth this year would be slower than previously forecast.
Also on Monday. supermarket giant Tesco announced plans to create 20,000 jobs in the UK over two years by improving stores and opening new ones.
Vicky Redwood from Capital Economics said: "February's UK CIPS/Markit report on services echoes the manufacturing survey released last week in suggesting that the recent pick-up in the economic recovery is already starting to lose momentum."