The U.S. services sector expanded at a slightly faster pace in November as the non-manufacturing business activity composite index was 54.7 in the month, compared to 54.2 in October, on a seasonally adjusted basis, the Institute for Supply Management reported Wednesday.

Economists polled by Thomson Reuters had expected a 53.5 level.

An index reading below 50 signals a slowing economy, while a level above 50 suggests expansion.

The prices paid index, closely watched for signs of inflation, slid to 57.0 from 65.6.

The employment index decreased to 50.3 from 54.9.

The business activity/production index rose to 61.2 from 55.4, the new orders index was at 58.1, up from 54.8; backlog of orders increased to 53.5 from 49.0; new export orders inched up to 48.0 from 47.5; inventories grew to 47.0 from 46.5; inventory sentiment dipped to 62.5 from 64.0; the supplier deliveries index decreased to 49.0 from 51.5; and imports climbed to 55.5 from 49.5.

Members' general comments on business in the month included:

"Cautiously optimistic is the best way to describe customer sentiment. Revenue continues to remain well below last year, but seems to have finally reached a point of stability. Price pressures are beginning to ease and customer traffic is once again picking up." (Arts, Entertainment & Recreation)

"We have experienced an estimated 25 percent [increase] in new job orders, and in new hires for services." (Professional, Scientific & Technical Services)

"Some companies seemed slower to make hiring decisions and/or place new positions on hold due to uncertainty in the economy and political climate." (Management of Companies & Support Services)

"Worries about global slowdown persist; however, the housing market appears to have hit its lows and is beginning to climb. This is good news for governmental tax base projections." (Public Administration)

"Hurricane Sandy has impacted our business activity tremendously. This emergency should not be misconstrued as a positive increase in business as usual; we merely facilitated emergency equipment and supplies to be delivered to the affected areas and the emergency responders." (Wholesale Trade)

"Sales continue to lag, but there are signs of improvement." (Retail Trade)

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