Private companies added 174,000 jobs in January, vs 50,000 estimate, ADP says

A month after reporting the first loss since April, the employment picture bounced back in January as companies added 174,000 new jobs, according to a report Wednesday from payroll processing firm ADP.

The gain beat the 50,000 estimate from economists surveyed by Dow Jones and improved on the 78,000 December decline, a number that was revised from the initially reported drop of 123,000.

“The labor market continues its slow recovery amid COVID-19 headwinds,” said Ahu Yildirmaz, vice president and co-head of the ADP Research Institute.

Services-related businesses accounted for 156,000 of the total gain, led by health care and social assistance with 48,000 and professional and business services with 40,000.

The battered leisure and hospitality industry, which is still down about 4 million jobs from pre-pandemic levels, added 35,000 for the month, according to ADP. That has come as some governments relaxed restrictions imposed around the holiday as Covid cases spiked.

On the goods-producing side, construction added 18,000 jobs while manufacturing saw a 1,000 gain. Trade, transportation and utilities rose 16,000.

Mid-size companies with 50 to 499 workers created the most jobs at 84,000. Small firms added 51,000 while big companies contributed 39,000.

The ADP release comes two days ahead of the more closely watched Labor Department report on nonfarm payrolls. The Dow Jones estimate for that count is also 50,000, with the unemployment rate projected to hold steady at 6.7%. December’s survey showed a loss of 140,000, the first time the economy lost jobs since the recovery began in May.

While the economy has reclaimed 12.3 million jobs since May, that still leaves 10.7 million American workers unemployed, more than 5 million above pre-pandemic levels.