U.S. companies added a modest 135,000 jobs in September, a private survey found, a sign that hiring is slowing as the trade war takes a toll on the economy and employers grow cautious.
Payroll processor ADP said Wednesday that hiring has particularly slowed in mining, which actually cut 3,000 jobs, and manufacturing, which added just 2,000. Health care providers added 35,000 jobs, while a category that mostly includes hotels and restaurants reported 18,000 more jobs.
Job gains at last month’s pace are enough to keep the unemployment rate from rising. And there are few signs of widespread layoffs. But companies’ demand for labor, which pushed average monthly hiring to 225,000 last year, has waned in the past six months.
President Donald Trump has slapped tariffs on more than half of Chinese imports and has also placed duties on steel, aluminum, and washing machines. China and other countries have imposed retaliatory tariffs, including on agricultural products like soybeans, which have clobbered farmers and imposed further pain on manufacturers.
Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, which compiles the ADP data, said that about one-fifth of the U.S. economy — manufacturing, farming and transportation — is essentially in recession. Shippers have fewer crops and manufactured goods to transport.
“The trade war is doing real damage to the economy,” he said.
A measure of factory activity fell deeper into contraction territory for the month of September, a trade group said Tuesday. The Institute for Supply Management’s survey of purchasing managers also found that factories were cutting jobs and new orders declined for a second straight month, suggesting production will decline further.”
Zandi also noted that job counts in the ADP data fell noticeably by late in the month compared with early September, an unusual trend that suggested hiring could still be slowing. It could also reflect the impact of the strike at General Motors , he said, which has also taken a toll among auto suppliers.
Still, if businesses hire at a modest pace and avoid layoffs, consumers will likely keep spending, which could propel modest growth.
Large companies, with more than 500 employees, continued to outpace other firms, adding 67,000 jobs, ADP said. Small companies with fewer than 50 workers gained just 30,000. Medium-sized firms added 39,000.
The ADP’s figures don’t include government hiring and frequently diverge from the government’s official report, which is scheduled to be released Friday. Economists expect that report will show 140,000 jobs were added.
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