U.S. service sector expanded for the 26th consecutive month in February, and the growth pace slightly accelerated, a widely recognized U.S. private survey revealed on Monday. The Non-Manufacturing Index (NMI), which measures activity in the U.S. service sector, rose to 57.3 in February from 56.8 in January, indicating continued growth at a faster rate, the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said in its monthly survey of the service sector. The index is closely watched because the service sector absorbs the major chunk of the U.S. workforce, and is a key indicator for the overall health of the economic recovery. The index showed that new orders, a signal of future business, increased last month to 61.2 from 59.4 in January, while the survey\'s employment component decreased to 55.7 in February from 57.4 in January, said the ISM. A total number of 14 industries reported expansion last month including real estate, finance and insurance, while three other industries including retail trade reported contraction. A reading above 50 indicates a general expanding of the service sector, while a reading below 50 indicates contraction.