LONDON, Dec. 5 (Xinhua) — Growth in the British service sector almost ground to a halt in November, according to a survey released on Wednesday.

The IHS Markit/CIPS Services Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) showed business activity of service sector, which accounts for nearly 80 percent of the UK economy, slipped to 50.4 from 52.2 in October, the lowest figure since July 2016 — the month after the Brexit referendum.

The latest figure was only slightly above the 50.0 no-change value and therefore pointed to a marginal overall expansion of service sector output, according to the survey.

It found that subdued business and consumer spending had held back growth in November, with businesses noting that heightened Brexit uncertainty had led to delays with clients’ business investment decisions.

Softer demand growth and rising staff salaries contributed to more cautious hiring policies in November. A number of survey respondents indicated difficulties in recruiting suitably skilled staff.

“The further decline in the services PMI in November to its lowest level since the panic immediately after the Brexit referendum provides the clearest indication yet that Brexit uncertainty is draining momentum from the economy,” said Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at economic research consultancy Pantheon Macroeconomics.