The March US Services Purchasing Managers' Index conducted by Markit came in at 54.0 percent, down 1.9 from the final February estimate of 55.9. The consensus was for 54.3 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:

March survey data indicated a strong expansion in business activity across the U.S. service sector. That said, the growth rate softened from that seen in February and was below the long-run series average. Similarly, the upturn in new business softened from the previous month but was sharp overall. In line with sustained increases in client demand, the rate of job creation accelerated to a seven-month high. Meanwhile, both input price and output charge inflation remained strong and above their respective series averages. [Press Release]

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