BEIJING, March 14 (Reuters) - China's services sector expanded 8.2 percent in January-February from a year earlier, the statistics bureau said on Tuesday, unveiling a new growth indicator amid the country's transition from an industrial to services-led economy.
The pace of service growth in early 2017 is basically the same as at the start of last year, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said.
The new monthly indicator measuring services output was published for the first time as China looks to provide more insight into a sector that now accounts for more than half of the economy and most of its growth.
"If you want to look at changes in China's growth drivers and economic trends, before you would look at the industrial sector. Now you look at the services industry," NBS spokesman Sheng Laiyun told a news conference.
Publication of the data also shows China has taken "solid action" to fulfill commitments made at the Strategic and Economic Dialogue talks between China and the United States last June, Sheng told Reuters.
Sheng said developing the indicator was difficult because it is harder to measure China's services sector than the industrial sector.
"The number of services companies is very large, and many are small firms, including sole proprietorships. (Many) don't have fully developed accounting systems like large firms."
He also said small companies "can change very rapidly, so it is relatively difficult to track them."
Sheng said the new indicator does not cover some parts of the services industry due to a lack of data. (Reporting by Elias Glenn; Editing by Richard Borsuk)