Survey: US companies added a solid 178,000 jobs in July

U.S. businesses added a solid 178,000 jobs in July, a survey found, evidence that employers remain confident enough about future demand to keep hiring.

Payroll processor ADP said Wednesday that the biggest gains were in fields such as education and health care and shipping. Manufacturers cut 4,000 jobs, while construction firms added 6,000. Mining, which includes oil and gas drilling, gained 3,000 jobs.

July's gain is below June's figure of 191,000, which was revised higher. But it is still enough to lower the unemployment rate over time. The rate is near a 16-year low of 4.4 percent.

The figures provide some reassurance that the economy remains healthy. Consumer spending slowed in June and Americans cut back sharply last month on auto purchases. But the overall economy grew at a decent 2.6 percent annual pace in the April-June quarter.

Analysts predict the government's jobs report, to be released Friday, will show a robust 190,000 jobs were added, according to data provider FactSet.

The ADP covers only private businesses and often diverges from the official figures. The government's June report showed that employers, including federal, state and local governments, added 222,000 jobs.

Small business hiring has slowed a bit in recent months, with companies that employ fewer than 50 people adding 50,000 jobs, ADP said. In the past three months, those gains have averaged 47,000. That's down from an average of 85,000 in the previous three months.

Mid-sized firms that employ 50 to 499 workers posted big gains, adding 83,000, while companies with 500 or more workers added 45,000 jobs.