The vast services sector, which ranges from restaurants to law firms, represents three-quarters of economic output and has led Britain's recovery. Noting that growth also faded all through Europe and the United State.

A PMI covering the service industry fell to a 40-month low of 50.7 from 52.8.

That was the weakest reading since September but still well above the 50 mark that separates expansion from contraction, suggesting Europe's largest economy remains robust in the face of a global slowdown.

Building companies have not been as pessimistic about prospects over the next year since December 2014.

Experts warned the slip for the services sector provides evidence that the United Kingdom economy is already suffering from the uncertainty caused by the European Union referendum.

Services PMI on its own is forecast at 53, down from 53.6 in January. As a result, composite employment fell at a rate that, though modest, was the quickest in six months.

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For activity to really pick up in the sector, the government must take action, warned He Fan, Caixin's chief economist.

He added that while the government seeks to stabilise economic growth, it should push forward reform on the supply side in the services sector to release its potential.

Reuters reported this week that China aims to lay off 5-6 million state workers in two to three years to curb industrial overcapacity and pollution. On Monday, China's central bank announced it was cutting the amount of cash banks must hold as reserves for the fifth time since February 2015.

Business expectations fell to their lowest level in 18 months but remained high, with 13 times as many businesses expecting to see growth in activity over the coming year as those anticipating a decrease. It was also below its long-run trend level since 1996 of 55.2, in a sector that ranges from retail, financial services and IT to hotels, transport, pubs and restaurants.

Yesterday's data jolted City economists, particularly as it was a culmination of a triple blow to the economy last month, with output growth hitting a ten-month low in construction and a seven-month low in manufacturing.