Businesses added 139,000 jobs in February, private payroll processor ADP said Wednesday, adding to concerns that the labor market continued to struggle last month amid extreme winter weather.
Economists expected ADP to report 158,000 additional private-sector jobs, according to a consensus forecast. They predict the Labor Department's more closely watched survey, due Friday, will show 150,000 job gains by businesses and federal, state and local governments.
ADP's estimated payroll advances exceeded Labor's by an average of 102,000 in December and January, with cold and stormy weather holding down job gains in both months. Payroll additions in the Labor report slowed to 75,000 in December and 113,000 in January from an average pace of more than 200,000 from August through November.
Jim O'Sullivan, chief U.S. economist of High Frequency Economics, says ADP's survey is less sensitive to weather effects than Labor's tally. With many economists saying adverse weather also dampened payroll advances last month, the ADP report may again serve as a less reliable foreshadowing of Labor's market-moving figures.
Bad weather across much of the country also has hobbled manufacturing output, housing activity and retail sales recently. Some economists, however, say other forces, such as rising mortgage rates, may also be hampering an economy that's generally expected to accelerate this year on rising household wealth and falling debt.