American shoppers began returning to stores and auto dealers as weather conditions improved in March. Photo: AP

April 3 (Bloomberg) — Service industries picked up in March after expanding at the slowest pace in four years, showing the biggest part of the U.S. economy was starting to thaw along with the weather.

The Institute for Supply Management’s non-manufacturing index rose to 53.1, less than forecast, from 51.6 in February, the Tempe, Arizona-based group said today. Readings greater than 50 signal expansion. The median projection in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for a gain to 53.5.

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