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U.S. service sector growth picks up in August: ISM

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The pace of growth in the U.S. services sector rose in August to its highest level since at least 2008, according to an industry report released on Thursday.

The Institute for Supply Management said its services index rose to 59.6 last month from 58.7 in July, and was the highest reading since its inception in January 2008. That topped economists' forecasts for 57.5, according to a Reuters survey.

While the index only dates to 2008, an examination of subcomponents with a longer track record indicate the August reading was the highest level of activity since August 2005.

A reading above 50 indicates expansion in the sector.

Its index of business activity rose to 65.0 in August, the highest since a matching December 2004 reading. The index was at 62.4 in July.

The employment index also rose, hitting 57.1 in August, the highest since February 2006, compared with 56.0 in July.

(This story corrects the first paragraph to show index at highest since at least 2008, not 2005; adds third paragraph to clarify historical comparison)

(Reporting by Caroline Valetkevitch; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)