WASHINGTON – Hiring by private-sector businesses showed further signs of strengthening in December, according to a closely followed report that bodes well for the upcoming release of national employment data.
Automatic Data Processing Inc. said Wednesday that businesses added 238,000 net new jobs last month, with small firms and the construction sector showing increasing momentum.
The tally is up from a revised figure of 229,000 new jobs that ADP calculated for November. Public- and private-sector job growth for November, as reported by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, was 203,000.
The labor agency is scheduled to release its December jobs report on Friday, along with any revisions to its November statistics.
Economists on average are expecting that report to show the nation added about 197,000 jobs last month, according to a survey by Bloomberg. The jobless rate is expected to remain at 7 percent.
The ADP report, which is based on payroll data for nearly 24 million private-sector employees, is the latest sign that the economy was gaining steam as it headed into 2014.
Economist Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics, a research firm that helps ADP analyze the data, estimated that the economy expanded at an annual pace of about 4 percent in the second half of last year. The government has not yet issued its economic-output numbers for the fourth quarter, but if Zandi’s forecast is correct, that would mark a significant acceleration from the 1.8 percent annual growth rate in the first half of last year.
“We’ve had a lot of false starts,” Zandi said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday, referring to the spring and summer stall in growth. But he said that “this time it does feel more fundamental and more broad-based.”
Zandi said he expected Friday’s jobs report to show a net decline of 8,000 jobs in the public sector, the result of federal government cuts.
ADP and Moody’s have been fairly close to the mark in predicting the national job growth numbers in the past few months. ADP, which processes payrolls for firms of all sizes, especially small businesses, said its data show the construction industry added 48,000 jobs in December – the best month since 2006.
Small firms, those with fewer than 50 employees, also closed out the year on a high note, according to ADP. These employers bulked up their payrolls by 108,000 in December, the most since early 2012, ADP said.