The pace of hiring at companies picked up in May, though the 133,000 jobs created this month came in shy of analysts' expectations, data from a payrolls processor showed on Thursday.
Economists surveyed by Reuters had forecast the ADP National Employment Report would show a gain of 148,000 jobs. April's figure was revised down slightly to an increase of 113,000 from the previously reported 119,000.
The report is jointly developed with Macroeconomic Advisers LLC.
"Recent data hasn't been great, and while this isn't a horrible number, it shows we're in a lackluster period in the economy right now," said Wayne Kaufman, chief market analyst at John Thomas Financial in New York.
Stock index futures trimmed gains immediately after the data, while the dollar held losses against the euro and yen.
The ADP figures come ahead of the government's much more comprehensive labor market report on Friday, which includes both public and private sector employment.
That report is expected to show a gain of 150,000 overall nonfarm payrolls in May, and a rise in private payrolls of 160,000.
Economists often refer to the ADP report to fine-tune their expectations for the payrolls numbers, though it is not always accurate in predicting the outcome.
Meanwhile, the number of planned layoffs at U.S. firms rose to an eight-month high in May after computer maker Hewlett-Packard said it planned to cut about 8 percent of its work force, another report showed.
Employers announced 61,887 job cuts this month, a surge of 52.6 percent from 40,559 in April, according to the report from consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. It was the highest level since September.
Job cuts were up 66.7 percent from May 2011 when 37,135 reductions were announced. For 2012 so far, employers have announced 245,540 layoffs, up 20.1 percent from the first five months of 2011.
The computer industry saw the biggest losses with 27,754 planned cuts, 27,000 of which came from Hewlett-Packard Co. The announcement made last week pushed the computer sector into the top spot for layoffs this year, with 32,599 cuts so far.
"While consumers and businesses are spending more on technology, the spending appears to favor a handful of companies," John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said in a statement.
"Those that are struggling to keep up with the rapidly changing trends and consumer tastes are shuffling workers to new projects or laying them off, altogether."
The look at the labor market comes a day ahead of the key U.S. jobs report, which is forecast to show hiring picked up in May with 150,000 new positions.
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