WASHINGTON – Services expanded in October at the fastest pace in three months, indicating the recovery is gaining strength even as central bankers are poised to loosen monetary policy.

The Institute for Supply Management’s index of non-manufacturing businesses, which covers about 90 percent of the economy, rose to 54.3 from 53.2 in September. Readings greater than 50 signal growth. A separate report showed factory orders in September climbed more than forecast by economists.

A faster expansion in services combined with gains in manufacturing may encourage companies to increase hiring. At the same time, growth still may not be fast enough to cut unemployment stuck above 9 percent since the recession ended in June 2009, explaining why Federal Reserve policymakers meeting today will probably announce another round of asset purchases.

“The numbers signal continued moderate growth in the economy,” said Michael Moran, chief economist at Daiwa Capital Markets America Inc. in New York, who had forecast an increase in the services measure. “We should be doing better than this at this stage of the recovery. Growth is not strong enough to bring down the unemployment rate significantly.”

The median forecast of 76 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News projected the ISM index would rise to 53.5. Estimates ranged from 52 to 55.2.

Another report Wednesday showed companies added more jobs than forecast in October. ADP Employer Services said employment rose by 43,000 last month. The median projection in a Bloomberg survey called for a gain of 20,000. September was revised to a 2,000 decrease from a previously reported 39,000 drop.

“Employment gains of this magnitude are not sufficient to lower the unemployment rate,” Joel Prakken, chairman of Macroeconomic Advisers, which produces the figures with ADP, said in a statement. “Given modest growth in the second and third quarters, and the usual lag of employment behind GDP, it would not be surprising to see several more months of lethargic employment gains, even if the economic recovery gathers momentum.”

Unemployment was probably 9.6 percent in October for a third straight month and payrolls rose by 60,000, the first gain since May, according to median projections of economists in Bloomberg surveys. The Labor Department is scheduled to release its monthly jobs report on Friday.

The Commerce Department said factory orders in September rose 2.1 percent. The figures also signaled that spending on equipment and software may cool less than previously estimated.

The services survey covers industries that range from utilities and retailing to health care, housing, finance and transportation.