A Bloomberg survey had forecast private employers would add 180,000 jobs in February after adding a revised 189,000 in January, which slightly topped initial estimates of 187,000. The economy added 247,000 private sector jobs in December, 92,000 in November and 79,000 in October.
"This month's ADP National Employment Report suggests continued solid growth of nonfarm private employment early in 2011," ADP said. "The recent pattern of rising employment gains since the middle of last year was reinforced by today's report, as the average gain from December through February (217,000) is well above the average gain over the prior six months (63,000)."
Services added 202,000 jobs, manufacturing added 20,000 and the goods producers added 15,000. Employment growth in financial services, however, was flat. And the construction sector lost 9,000 jobs.
Mixed Signals as Layoffs Increase
Economists monitor monthly job reports because job creation is positively correlated with corporate revenue and earning gains. And, in general, the U.S. stock market tracks corporate earnings.
While ADP's private employment survey isn't as comprehensive as the U.S. Labor Department's nonfarm monthly report, due out this Friday at 8:30 a.m. ET, it still provides evidence that employers are more confident about adding employees this year than at the beginning of 2010. That bodes well for at least a modest decline in the country's high 9% unemployment rate in 2011, assuming the period of large, public sector layoffs is over.
Still, it's important for investors to keep the five-month private sector job growth streak in perspective. America's job deficit is huge: The economy is short about 15 million full-time jobs, which means the nation will have to register strong employment growth over several years -- not months -- to return to a more reasonable unemployment rate around 6% to 7%.