The services economy was still expanding briskly last month, but the pace of growth again eased back from a recent peak in April.

The purchasing managers' business activity index for services - other than retailers - published by the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply and The Royal Bank of Scotland eased back to 57.9 from June's 58.7 on a scale where anything above 50 indicates growth.

The CIPS noted that sustained success in winning new orders has tested capacity at a number of service companies.

Backlogs have now risen for eight months running and heavier workloads have encouraged companies to recruit extra staff, it said. The sub-index number tracking new orders came in at 58 slightly ahead of that in June.

The rate of employment growth eased off slightly, but was still the second highest monthly finding in eight years.

"Purchasing managers reported that the end of the World Cup and July's heat-wave resulted in a cooling off in UK service sector expansion, as activity growth slipped back from June," said Roy Ayliffe director of professional practice at the CIPS.

"Oil-related costs again led to a hike in input price inflation. This teamed with rising labour costs, poised a challenge to service providers, which they were only partly successful in meeting by raising their charges."

Hotels and restaurants reported the sharpest cost increases in their costs, where wages and salaries featured as a factor, as well as oil-related costs.

The input prices sub-index covering these came in at 60.5, somewhat below June. Strong competition continued to limit the extent to which this could be recouped by raising tariffs charged to customers.