Whether it was the brutal weather, fewer work days or other causes, private employers added the fewest new jobs in February since last May. ADP’s National Employment report said private employer payrolls grew by 212,000 last month, a decrease of 38,000 from January’s revised numbers.
The count was smaller than economists were expecting. A Reuters survey put their average forecast at 220,000 jobs. The Wall Street Journal‘s survey put the forecast at 215,000.
“While February’s job gains came in slightly lower than recent months, the trend of solid growth above 200,000 jobs per month continued,” said Carlos Rodriguez, president and chief executive officer of ADP.
The HR services and payroll processor, and its data partner, Moody’s Analytics, said job gains were spread mostly among four of the five sectors tracked in the report. Manufacturing, with only 3,000 new jobs, had the smallest gain. Professional and business services added the most, growing by 34,000 jobs.
The financial activities sector added 20,000 jobs, its largest increase in the ADP tally since March 2006.
Businesses with fewer than 50 employees led the jobs growth, adding 94,000 new workers. The biggest employers, those with more than 1,000 employees, added 38,000 jobs.
While February’s hiring was smaller than the revised January count (ADP initially reported 213,000 new jobs for that month), economists don’t necessarily read much into it. JPMorgan economist Daniel Silver told Reuters, “The ADP report shows that payrolls continue to increase at a solid pace through February.” He also discounted the effect of winter weather, noting that the nation’s construction industry added 31,000 jobs during the month.
Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, said, “Job growth is strong, but slowing from the torrid pace of recent months. Job gains remain broad-based, although the collapse in oil prices has begun to weigh on energy-related employment. At the current pace of growth, the economy will return to full employment by mid-2016.”
The Conference Board’s count of online job postings grew by 181,000 in February, its biggest gain in more than two years. The 5.5 million listings is the largest count since the Help Wanted OnLine Data Series began in May 2005.
“Online labor demand has shown a very strong start in 2015, with demand increasing 334,500 across the first two months of the year,” said Gad Levanon, Managing Director, Macroeconomic and Labor Market Research. “These increases are a positive sign for continued growth in employment.”
Friday, the U.S. Labor Department will issue the government employment report. Economists are expecting the report, which includes government hiring, to show about 240,000 new jobs. The unemployment rate is predicted to tick down to 5.6% from January’s 5.7%.