Two days in front of another key reading on the nation’s employment situation, a barometer of private-sector hiring offered sobering news.

Payroll company Automatic Data Processing (NYSE:ADP) said private-sector jobs fell by 39,000 in September, far worse than the 20,000 gain that was expected by economists.

"The September decline in employment followed seven monthly increases from February through August. However, over those seven months, the average monthly gain in employment was 34,000. There simply is no momentum in employment," ADP said in its survey.

ADP said businesses with more than 500 employees slashed payrolls by 11,000, while medium-sized businesses cut 14,000 jobs. Small businesses -- those that employee less than 50 people -- also cut payrolls by 14,000.

Factory jobs declined by 17,000 -- further evidence of a slowing manufacturing sector -- while service sector jobs increased by 6,000.

On Friday, the government will release its nonfarm payroll report, which continues to show little in the way of meaningful jobs growth. Economists are calling for a drop of about 10,000 jobs.

Separately on Wednesday, outplacement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas said employers announced plans to cut about 37,000 jobs last month, up 7% from August.