Private employers added a surprisingly strong 246,000 net new jobs in January, the most in seven months, payroll firm Automatic Data Processing said Wednesday.
The job growth was well above the 151,000 figure from December, which was revised down slightly. Economists had anticipated a smaller increase in January, to 168,000.
The accelerated job growth could reflect increased optimism by business owners after the election of President Trump, who has promised to cut corporate taxes and reduce government regulations.
The new figures also signal that the government’s January jobs report, to be released Friday, might exceed expectations.
The ADP data show that “2017 got off to a strong start in the job market,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, which assists ADP in preparing its report.
“Job growth is solid across most industries and company sizes,” he said. “Even the energy sector is adding to payrolls again.”
Natural resources and mining companies, hit hard in recent years because of the decline in oil prices, added 6,000 net new jobs in January, ADP said. That was the most since the spring of 2014.
Manufacturers increased their payrolls by 15,000, the best performance in more than two years. The sector has been hurt by weak global demand and a strong dollar, which has increased the costs of U.S. exports abroad.
Construction hiring also surged, to 25,000 net new jobs, more than six times what was added in December. Healthcare firms, along with professional and business services providers, also saw significant job gains in January compared with the previous month, according to ADP.
Analysts expect the Labor Department to report Friday that the broader economy — private and public sector — added about 175,000 net new jobs in January. That would be up from 156,000 the previous month.
The unemployment rate is expected to hold steady at 4.7%.
Follow @JimPuzzanghera on Twitter