MOSCOW (Reuters) - Activity in Russia's services sector increased at its fastest pace in three months in September on the back of an increase in new orders and staff


hiring, a survey showed on Wednesday.


The Markit purchasing managers index (PMI) for the sector rose to 55.2 in September from 54.2 in August. The index has held above the 50 mark that separates expansion from contraction since February 2016.


Panelists said strong demand from both foreign and domestic clients drove the rise in new orders. An improvement in market conditions also supported business confidence, they said, with output expectations for the coming year rising to an eight-month high.


"New business expanded at the fastest pace since December 2012, which supported further employment growth. Notably, workforce numbers rose at the quickest rate since May 2013," IHS Markit economist Sian Jones said.

Earlier this week, another PMI survey showed Russian manufacturing activity increased in September, driven by stronger output and new orders as well as an increase in export orders for the first time since August 2013.

(Reporting by Jack Stubbs; Editing by Andrey Ostroukh and Hugh; Lawson)