By Xavier Fontdegloria

 

The nonfarm private sector in the U.S. slowed its pace of job gains in February despite falling Covid-19 infections and the easing of restrictions in several states, data from ADP National Employment Report showed Wednesday.

Total U.S. nonfarm private employment increased by 117,000 in February. Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal were expecting payrolls to increase by a much higher 225,000.

The reading signals that overall hiring offset layoffs in February, resuming a job market recovery that started in May once the economy reopened, but it is still far from the strength signaled by other hard data.

In January, the U.S. private sector registered a gain of 195,000 jobs, up from an initial estimate of 174,000.

"The labor market continues to post a sluggish recovery across the board," Nela Richardson, chief economist at ADP, said.

Medium businesses, between 50 and 499 employees, are the ones which added the most jobs with an increase of 57,000. Small businesses, with a maximum of 49 employees, registered 32,000 payroll gains and large businesses, those of at least 500 workers, created 28,000 jobs.

The service-providing sector created 131,000 jobs, particularly in health care and social assistance, and leisure and hospitality.

However, the goods-producing sector registered a decrease of 14,000 jobs, the data showed, particularly in the manufacturing sector.

"We're seeing large-sized companies increasingly feeling the effects of Covid-19, while job growth in the goods producing sector pauses," Ms. Richardson said.

The service sector remains well below its pre-pandemic levels, but the sector is the one that will likely benefit the most over time with reopenings and increased consumer confidence, she said.

The report, carried out by the ADP Research Institute along with Moody's Analytics, is based on data through the 12th of the month.

The U.S. Department of Labor is expected to release its February employment report, which covers the same period as the ADP National Employment Report, on Friday. Economists are expecting it to show nonfarm payrolls up by 210,000 for the month and the unemployment rate stable at 6.3% compared with January.

 

Write to Xavier Fontdegloria at xavier.fontdegloria@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

March 03, 2021 08:49 ET (13:49 GMT)

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