U.S. businesses stepped up hiring last month, led by solid gains in construction and retail, a private survey found.
Payroll processor ADP said Wednesday that companies added 257,000 jobs last month, the most in a year. Construction companies added 24,000 jobs, while retailers and shipping firms added 38,000.
The figures indicate that employers are still hiring at a healthy pace, even as overseas economic weakness and the strong dollar have hit U.S. manufacturing. Factories added just 2,000 jobs last month, ADP said.
The data comes just two days before the government issues its official jobs report for December. Economists forecast that the report will show employers added 200,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate remained 5 percent.
The ADP survey covers only private businesses and frequently diverges from the official figures.
ADP's figures come after several other recent reports suggested the economy slowed at the end of last year. Manufacturing activity contracted for the second straight month in December, as factories cut back sharply on hiring, the Institute for Supply Management said on Monday.
Construction spending also dropped for the first time in 17 months in November, as builders pulled back on new hotels and other commercial projects.
And fewer people signed contracts to buy homes in November, evidence that home sales cooled off this winter after decent sales gains earlier last year.
Those reports caused economists at JPMorgan Chase to cut their forecast for growth in the October-December quarter to an annual rate of 1 percent, from 2 percent.
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