Service sector activity "softened in December," according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond service-sector activity survey, released Tuesday.

Overall, the service sector revenues index slipped to negative 4 in December, from positive 8 in November, while the number of employees index decreased to 1 from 20, the average wage index dropped to negative 3 from positive 8, and the expected product demand during the next six months index fell to 1 from 13.

The indexes are the percentage of responding firms reporting increase, less the percentage reporting a decrease.

By sector, the retail area excluding services firms reported the sales revenues index slumped to negative 15 from positive 33, the number of employees index dropped to 1 from 25, while the average wages index plunged to 4 from 29. The inventories index slid to 7 from 20, while the big-ticket sales index decreased to 21 from 31. The shopper traffic index dropped to negative 6 from positive 26, while expected product demand during the next six months remained at 4.

For services firms excluding retail, the revenues index was 1 compared with 1 last month, while the number of employees index fell to 5 from 18, and the average wage index slid to negative 2 from positive 3. The expected product demand during the next six months index decreased to 5 from 17.

The current price trend for the two sectors together rose to 1.37 from 1.05, while growing to 1.52 from 1.09 for retail alone and gaining to 1.27 from 1.02 for services, excluding retail.

The expected price trend index for the two sectors together fell to 1.44 in December from 1.65 in November, while increasing to 2.59 from 2.42 for retail alone and slipping to 1.29 from 1.55 for services, excluding retail.

All firms surveyed are located within the Fifth Federal Reserve District, which includes the District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and most of West Virginia.

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