We just got another sign the job market may be slowing down

  • Private employers added 129,000 payrolls last month, ADP said Wednesday, the slowest pace of job growth in 18 months.
  • The report raised concerns that official employment data out Friday could fall short of expectations.
  • In February, the US added the fewest private and public sector jobs since 2017.

The US private sector created far fewer jobs than expected in March, according to the payroll processor ADP.

The ADP National Employment Report showed on Wednesday that private employers added 129,000 payrolls last month, far below economist forecasts for an increase of 175,000 and the slowest pace in a year and a half.

The report raises concerns that the official figures out later this week could also come in below consensus expectations for a second month in a row, said Paul Ashworth, chief US economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics. In February, the US added the fewest jobs since 2017.

“There is sure to be a bounce back in the official data given how weak February was, the only question is how big it will be?” he said.

ADP’s model incorporates prior official payroll data as well as information from firms which use its payroll processing services, so it’s possible that noise and cold weather in February pulled last month’s numbers down, said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

“Frustratingly, the influence of the prior month’s official numbers is impossible to isolate consistently in advance,” he said. “Usually, the effect of weak official numbers on the next ADP reading is seen in the month after severe weather events.”

The Bureau of Labour Statistics is scheduled to release its March employment report, which includes both private and public sector jobs, on Friday. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expect that to show the economy added 175,000 nonfarm payrolls last month.

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