Private employers added 202,000 jobs in December, soaring past economists' expectations and ending the year on a strong note, according to the latest ADP National Employment Report.
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The total far exceeded the 160,000 jobs that economists surveyed by Refinitiv were expecting.
Wednesday's report also included an upward revision in November's numbers. The ADP Research Institute said the private sector added 124,000 jobs two months ago, up from the 67,000 initially reported.
“Looking through the monthly vagaries of the data, job gains continue to moderate," Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, said in a statement. "Manufacturers, energy producers and small companies have been shedding jobs. Unemployment is low, but will begin to rise if job growth slows much further."
Growth was spread across various sectors: Goods-producing industries accounted for 29,000, while construction added 37,000, the best monthly gain since April. Still, manufacturing posted a 7,000 decline, and natural resources and mining dropped by 1,000.
Services added 173,000 positions, with trade, transportation and utilities compensating for 78,000. Substantial growth also took place in the professional and business services, which added 61,000. Leisure and hospital lost 21,000 jobs, and information fell by 14,000.
Medium-size businesses, which employ 50 to 499 people, accounted for almost half of the jobs, with 88,000 created, according to ADP. Small businesses, or those with 1 to 49 workers, generated about 69,000 jobs. Large businesses added 45,000 positions.
The data precedes the release of a more closely watched update from the Labor Department on Friday, which is expected to show the U.S. economy added 164,000 jobs in December. Analysts anticipate unemployment will hold steady at 3.5 percent, a half-century low. In November, the U.S. added a surprisingly strong 266,000 jobs.