WASHINGTON _ U.S. companies reported a modest gain of 153,000 jobs last month, all in service industries such as retail and health care, according to a private survey.
Payroll provider ADP said Thursday that hotels and restaurants added 18,000 jobs in December, while higher-paying professional and business services, such as engineering, added 24,000. Manufacturers lost 9,000 jobs and construction firms shed 2,000.
Businesses added 215,000 jobs in November, the strongest showing since June.
The report points to ongoing, if moderate, job growth. Hiring averaged 174,000 jobs a month in 2016, according to ADP, down from an average of 209,000 in 2015.
The economy picked up in the July-September quarter, expanding at a solid 3.5 per cent annual rate, but growth is expected to be sluggish for all of 2016. Still, consumer confidence has jumped since the election, particularly among Republican voters, and the stock market is near record highs.
Businesses are also confident enough in future growth to hold onto their workers. Applications for unemployment benefits, a proxy for layoffs, fell to just 235,000 last week, nearly the lowest level since 1973.
The ADP data cover only private businesses and often diverge from official figures. Economists forecast that the government’s jobs report, to be released Friday, will show a gain of 173,000, according to data provider FactSet.
That report may also show that the unemployment rate ticked up to 4.7 per cent in December, up from 4.6 per cent the previous month, economists expect. Still, that is a low rate that suggests employers may have to offer higher pay to attract and keep workers. That could deliver broader pay gains for more Americans.