Signs of a recovery in the U.S. labor market grew on Wednesday as data on the private sector labor market showed job gains for the first time since January 2008.
Other data showed the pace of growth in the U.S. services sector was unchanged in April compared with the month before and expanded below the rate forecast by analysts.
The private sector added 32,000 jobs in April, according to a report by payrolls processor ADP Employer Services on Wednesday. Economists had expected a rise of 30,000 jobs, based on a Reuters poll.
But the February and March private sector ADP figures were revised to show gains instead of losses. The last time the private sector registered job gains was in January 2008, according to ADP.
The ADP report comes two days ahead of the more closely watched U.S. government jobs data. Another report on Wednesday showed planned layoffs in April fell to their lowest in nearly four years.
"Private sector employment growth is another encouraging sign the labor market is turning the corner and the last pillar of the recovery looks to be now in place," Zach Pandl, economist at Nomura Securities International in New York.
Job growth is considered key to sustaining the economic recovery.
The government's monthly jobs report, due Friday, is forecast to show nonfarm payrolls increased by 200,000 in April, adding to the prior month's 162,000 gain, according to a Reuters' forecast. The unemployment rate, however, is expected to remain unchanged at 9.7 percent for a fourth month.
Government department recruitment to run the U.S. census, held every ten years, will likely account for the bulk of the payrolls gain in April, with private sector hiring expected to pull back from March's spectacular 123,000 increase.
U.S. stock prices declined, while U.S. Treasury yields fell, and the euro fell against the U.S. dollar, after the data was published, amid continued worries about Greece's debt problems.
The Institute for Supply Management said its services index was at 55.4 in April, the same in March but below the 56.0 median forecast of 74 economists surveyed by Reuters. A reading above 50 indicates expansion.
The ISM report's employment component fell slightly to 49.5 from 49.8 the prior month.
"It implies the services sector of the economy continues to expand, but at a slow pace," said Hugh Johnson, chief investment officer of Johnson Illington Advisors in Albany, N.Y.
Other data on Wednesday showed the number of planned layoffs at U.S. firms fell more than 40 percent in April to the lowest level in nearly four years, suggesting employers are more confident about economic conditions.
Employers announced 38,326 planned job cuts last month, the lowest since July 2006 and down from 67,611 planned job cuts in March, according to the report from global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.
Meanwhile, Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) data showed demand for loans to buy U.S. homes hit a seven-month high last week.
Home purchase loan applications jumped 13 percent in the week ended April 30 to the highest level since early October, overshadowing a 2.1 percent drop in refinancing demand. Total mortgage applications rose by a seasonally adjusted 4 percent, the trade group reported.
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