MADRID: Spain’s service sector grew at its fastest rate in five months, a poll showed on Wednesday, and firms hired staff faster as the country consolidated its return to economic expansion.
Markit’s Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) of service companies rose to 56.7 in January from 54.3 in December, and marking the 15th straight month the index was above the 50 line separating growth from contraction.
A Reuters survey of economists had pointed to a reading of 54.9.
Spain’s service sector accounts for around half of the country’s economic output and has been key in producing jobs and boosting growth as reviving domestic demand brings customers back to stores and restaurants.
“The first services PMI reading of 2015 suggests that the sector made a good start to the year, with growth rates of activity and new business at their strongest since the middle of last year,” economist at Markit Andrew Harker said.
“Taken alongside the solid PMI numbers for the manufacturing sector released on Monday, the data suggest that the economic recovery in Spain gathered momentum in January.”
The employment subindex registered its highest level since April of last year, rising to 51.9 from 50.8, Markit data showed.
Spain’s unemployment rate is the second-highest in the European Union after Greece, with almost one in four workers out of a job, though this is slowly falling as growth returns.
Detailed PMI data are only available under licence from Markit and customers need to apply to Markit for a license.