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A Wal-Mart employee pushes a line of shopping carts toward the entrance of a Wal-Mart store, in Walpole, Mass., in this May 11, 2007 file photo. Growth in the U.S. service sector slowed in March.

Steven Senne/AP

The pace of growth in the U.S. services sector slipped in March after hitting its highest level in a year the previous month, as a gauge of new orders declined, according to an industry report released on Wednesday.

The Institute for Supply Management said its services sector index fell to 56.0 last month from 57.3 in February, shy of economists' forecasts for 57.0.

A reading above 50 indicates expansion in the sector.

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The new orders index declined to 58.8 from 61.2, though the employment index improved to 56.7 from 55.7. A measure of prices paid was dialed back to 63.9 from 68.4.

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