NEW YORK (Reuters) - The pace of growth in the U.S. services sector accelerated in January to its highest level in nearly a year as new orders and employment jumped, an industry report showed on Friday.
The Institute for Supply Management said its services index rose to 56.8 last month from a revised 53.0 in December. It was the highest level since February 2011.
Economists had expected the index to hold steady at 53.0, according to a Reuters survey. A reading above 50 indicates expansion in the sector.
U.S. stocks rose 1 percent heading into the data, while Treasuries yields hit session highs following its release and the euro extended losses against the dollar.
The new orders index climbed to 59.4 from 54.6, though the prices paid measure edged up to 63.5 from 62.0
Employment in the vast services sector was robust, rising to the highest level in six years at 57.4 from 49.8 and adding to signals of improvement in the labor market. The sector accounts for more than two-thirds of economic activity in the United States.
The overall U.S. unemployment rate fell to close to a three-year low in January, separate data showed earlier on Friday, as the economy created jobs at the fastest pace in nine months.
Anticipation for a third round of stimulus, or quantitative easing, from the Federal Reserve had picked up after the Fed left the door open to more stimulus at its most recent meeting, the jobs report muted those expectations.
Economic growth is expected to back off in early 2012 from the 2.8 percent rate of growth in the fourth quarter, though there are signs of underlying momentum.
Global service sector data on Friday was more mixed and showed Europe's economy probably picked up last month, while growth in Chinese service firms slowed sharply.
(Reporting By Leah Schnurr; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Dan Grebler)