THE pace of the UK's economic recovery has slowed to a nine-month low, with companies easing back on job creation, a report has warned.
The services sector has narrowed following contraction in manufacturing and construction.
The results, from the Markit/CIPS purchasing managers' index, said the services division recorded a reading of 57.6 in March, down from February's 58.2 mark.
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Any reading above 50 separates growth from contraction.
The services sector accounts for more than three-quarters of the UK's economy and includes banks and high street restaurants.
The figures comes after reports showed growth had slowed marginally in manufacturing and construction, leaving an nine-month all-sector low PMI reading of 58.1.
The survey suggested the services sector grew for its 15th consecutive month, but increases in new business and job creation were slower than in February.
Bosses say overall economic output is still below its 2008 pre-crisis peak.
Chris Williamson, Markit chief economist, said the data suggested an underlying slowdown in the pace of expansion.
He said: "While March saw growth slow across the services, manufacturing and construction sectors, all three continue to expand at very strong rates, meaning the economy looks to have grown by at least 0.7 per cent again in the first quarter.
"With prices charged for services barely rising, and the exchange rate reducing the cost of imports, inflation is set to fall further in the coming months, extending this Goldilocks period of above-trend growth and falling inflation.
"Policymakers will be concerned that growth could ease further if sterling continues to appreciate.
"However, theres no evidence to suggest any slowdown will be anything other than modest, adding to indications that the UK is set to see growth outpace its peers in 2014."