U.S. Companies Add More Jobs Than Forecast, ADP Data Show

U.S. companies added more workers than forecast in February, suggesting the jobs market was in good shape just as the coronavirus began rippling through the economy.

Businesses’ payrolls increased by 183,000 after a downwardly revised 209,000 gain a month earlier, according to ADP Research Institute data released Wednesday. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for a 170,000 gain.

Key Insights

  • The biggest two-month gain in private payrolls in almost two years offers a snapshot of a robust labor market before coronavirus fears slammed headlong into financial markets and tested business confidence. To guard against further erosion in sentiment and ensure the record-long expansion remains intact, the Federal Reserve cut rates half a percentage point on Tuesday.
  • While the report offers an optimistic picture of the labor market in February, that strength may ebb in the coming months as Americans curb travel and some social activities due to the coronavirus.
  • The Labor Department’s employment report due Friday is forecast to show private payrolls increased by 160,000 in February. The unemployment rate is forecast to hold near a half-century low as wages continue steady gains. The ADP report differs in methodology and doesn’t directly correlate with the government’s monthly employment report.
  • Goods-producing jobs added just 11,000 jobs as an increase in construction payrolls offset declines in manufacturing and mining.
  • Service-provider employment climbed 172,000.

Economist’s View

“COVID-19 will need to break through the job market firewall if it is to do significant damage to the economy,” Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, said in a statement. Moody’s produces the report jointly with ADP. “The firewall has some cracks, but judging by the February employment gain it should be strong enough to weather most scenarios.”

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  • Hiring at small businesses rose 24,000 and large businesses added 133,000.
  • Job gains were boosted by solid employment in leisure and hospitality, business services and health care.
  • ADP’s payroll data represent firms employing nearly 26 million workers in the U.S.

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