By Jeff Cox
Private sector job creation continued at a healthy clip in December, with companies adding a better-than-expected 238,000 positions despite the inclement weather.
ADP (ADP) and Moody's Analytics said the month was the best for 2013 and pointed towards a solid number when the government releases its nonfarm payrolls report Friday.
Economists expected the ADP/Moody's Analytics report to show the private sector created 200,000 positions in December, down slightly from the 215,000 initially reported for November.
"This is it. We're off and running," Moody's economist Mark Zandi told CNBC. "We've jumped to a new level of growth."
Among the highlights: Construction jobs grew by the largest monthly number since 2006, adding 48,000, while goods-producing industries contributed 69,000.
Overall, professional and businesses services again led the way with 170,000 new jobs, down a shade from November's 182,000.
The big number could sway economists to change their view of the monthly unemployment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is expected to show 196,000 additional positions, all but 1,000 from the private sector.
Deutsche Bank (DB) quickly revised its forecast, with Joe LaVorgna, the firm's chief U.S. economist, tweeting that he was raising his forecast.
the ADP report helps justify the Federal Reserve's gradual move away from its $85 billion a month bond-buying program known as quantitative easing. The U.S. central bank's Open Markets Committee voted last month to cut the program by $10 billion a month. FOMC minutes to be released later Wednesday should shed more light on the Fed's decision-making process and how big a role employment improvements have played.
The jobs numbers also refuted the notion that the snowy and cold December might depress job creation.
"There were some concerns we heard ahead of today's blowout ADP number that cold weather may have thwarted hiring in December," Andrew Wilkinson, chief market strategist at Interactive Brokers, said in a note. "Perhaps that's a story for January as record low temperatures disrupt the economy."
Small businesses drove December's gains, adding 108,000 positions. Large businesses provided 71,000 jobs while medium-sized firms generated 59,000.
In industries, professional business services added 53,000 while trade, transportation and utilities generated 47,000 and manufacturing grew 19,000.
ADP: Private Sector Adds 238,000 Jobs in December