The March US Services Purchasing Managers' Index conducted by Markit came in at 52.8 percent, down 1.0 percent from the February estimate. The consensus was for 52.9 percent. Markit's Services PMI is a diffusion index: A reading above 50 indicates expansion in the sector; below 50 indicates contraction.

Here is the opening from the latest press release:

Growth of the US service sector was maintained during March, albeit to a lesser degree than in the previous month as volumes of incoming business rose at a slower rate. Companies were subsequently able to make some further inroads into their work outstanding, with these efforts supported by a modest increase in payroll numbers. Latest data also showed input costs rising at a solid rate, although a desire to strengthen profitability meant higher costs were passed onto clients wherever possible.

The seasonally adjusted Markit U.S Services Business Activity Index remained above the 50.0 no-change mark in March to extend the current period of growth to 13 months. However, the index continued to fall from January’s recent peak, reaching a six-month low of 52.8 (February: 53.8). [Press Release]

Here is a snapshot of the series since mid-2012.

Markit Services PMI