The UK service sector continued to grow in May after a survey showed employment rising at its sharpest level in 18 months.
Companies again raised prices at a solid rate, suggesting the next move in interest rates will be up.
The Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee meets on Wednesday and Thursday.
The Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply/RBS business activity index, which is closely watched by BoE policy makers, eased to 59.2 in May from the twoyear high of 59.7 struck in April.
This left the index above analysts' forecasts of 58.9 and well above the 50.0 mark that divides growth and contraction.
Service sector companies, ranging from banks to hairdressers, also hired new staff at their fastest rate in a year and a half - a good sign for the labour market which recently has shown signs of weakening.
And with orders for new business down only slightly from a two-year high the month before and business confidence on the rise, the prospect for growth in coming months is upbeat.
"The service sector is on fire. April and May are the best back-to back months since the beginning of 2004," said Andrew McLaughlin, group chief economist at RBS. "The odds on a summer rate hike just got a little shorter."
Expectations have been growing in financial markets that the BoE's next move in rates will be up from 4.5 per cent, underpinned in part by the April survey.
May's continued strength will do little to dislodge those views, although a poll of economists taken last week showed most expect rates to remain on hold for rest of the year.
And many analysts are sticking with that view.
James Knightley, at ING, said: "The mixed messages in the report don't really alter the outlook for near-term monetary policy, with rates left at 4.5 per cent the most likely outcome of Thursday's meeting."
HSBC economist John Butler said stronger activity in the sector had removed the need for further easing in interest rates but a hike would depend on inflationary pressures intensifying.
"So far that pressure has been mainly isolated in the early parts of the supply chain and absorbed in profits, and as a result interest rates are likely to stay on hold."
Prices charged climbed slightly less rapidly in May, but only just, at 54.6 compared with 54.7. Hotels and restaurants and financial services recorded the biggest rises.
That came as the employment index hit its highest since November 2004, at 53.7 compared with 52.8 in April. Companies reported hiring staff to deal with tighter workloads and also to handle plans for future business development.
The report also had good news for future business investment, which policymakers have noted has lagged past business cycles.
Slightly less than 55 per cent of firms expected business activity to rise in 12 months' time, with some reporting capital investment in new facilities would lift activity then.