U.S. private employers added fewer jobs than expected last month, declining as well from January's revised figure as employment growth slowed in some sectors, a payrolls processor report showed on Wednesday.
The ADP National Employment Report, jointly developed with Moody's Analytics, showed a gain of 212,000 private-sector jobs. Economists surveyed by Reuters had forecast the ADP to show a gain of 220,000 jobs.
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January's private payrolls were also revised upward to 250,000 from the previously reported 213,000.
The report showed moderating employment gains in sectors such as manufacturing, goods producing, and services. For instance, service-providing employment rose by 181,000 jobs in February, compared with growth of 206,000 in the sector in January.
"Job growth is strong, but slowing from the torrid pace of recent months," said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics. "Job gains remain broad-based, although the collapse in oil prices has begun to weigh on energy-related employment."
The ADP figures come ahead of the U.S. Labor Department's more comprehensive non-farm payrolls report on Friday, which includes both public and private-sector employment.
Economists polled by Reuters are looking for total U.S. employment to have grown by 240,000 jobs in February, down from 257,000 in January. The unemployment rate, on the other hand, is expected to have ticked lower to 5.6 percent from January's 5.7 percent.
Overall, analysts said that despite the slower jobs growth in February, the private-sector employment outlook remained bright and augured well for the non-farm payrolls report.
"The ADP report shows that payrolls continue to increase at a solid pace through February," said Daniel Silver, economist at JPMorgan in New York.
He added that the report also showed no significant adverse impact from winter weather, as growth in construction payrolls remained strong in February. The construction industry added 31,000 jobs, the same number as last month.
(Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)