US private payrolls increased by 153,000 in December, according to ADP Research Institute.
Economists had estimated that private payrolls rose by 175,000, according to Bloomberg.
Employment slumped across all the goods-producing industries, including construction and manufacturing.
“This is surprising considering the recovery in oil rig counts, housing activity, and manufacturing sentiment,” said Neil Dutta, the head of US economics at Renaissance Macro, in a note.
Services hiring increased across industries except in information.
“Smaller companies are struggling to maintain payrolls while large companies are expanding at a healthy pace,” added Mark Zandi, the chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, in the release.
ADP’s recent payroll reports have shown a slowdown in the pace of jobs growth. That’s likely because fewer people are searching for jobs, with the unemployment rate at an eight-year low and labour-force participation historically low.
“While job gains in December were slightly below our monthly average, the US labour market has experienced unprecedented seven years of growth that has brought us to near full employment,” said Ahu Yildirmaz, head of the research institute. “As we enter 2017, the tightening labour market will likely slow the growth.”
This release comes ahead of the Bureau of Labour Statistics’ nonfarm payrolls report on Friday, which is forecast to show private payrolls rose by 170,000 last month. That would extend the longest streak of private-sector job growth on record.