The Australian services sector recorded a welcome expansion in activity in February, according to a latest survey released on Wednesday by the Australian Industry Group (Ai Group).
The Ai Group's Performance of Services Index (PSI) lifted 5.8 points to 55.2 in February. A reading above 50 indicates expansion.
In a breakdown of the sub-sectors, health and community services (67.7) and finance and insurance (67.0) were the only two sub-sectors to record expansion, the survey found.
Ai Group Chief Executive Innes Willox said on Wednesday that a very solid improvement in sales and employment across the services sector helped the industry leap into expansion.
"There was a hint of this welcome movement in January with reports of strength in new orders after a gradual climb from very low levels in mid-2013," he said in a statement.
"There are further encouraging signs of a long-awaited lift in services industries with the rise in employment pointing to higher levels of business confidence, with new orders continuing to grow in February and with the retail sector on the brink of expansion."
But Willox said the services sector was still short of a full recovery with expansion restricted to a couple of sub-sectors and with businesses in other areas reporting ongoing weakness