WASHINGTON -- The pace of hiring accelerated in the final month of last year, boosted by solid gains in construction, professional services and trade and transportation, according to a closely followed private survey.
The report released Thursday by Automatic Data Processing indicates that the private sector added 215,000 jobs in December, up from a revised 148,000 in November. The ADP calculations, which are based on about half a million U.S. private establishments for which it processes payrolls, suggest that job growth was considerably stronger last month than what many analysts have forecast.
The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday is scheduled to issue its employment report for December, with monthly changes in jobs and the latest unemployment rate. In November, the agency previously estimated, the economy added 147,000 new private-sector jobs and lost 1,000 from government payrolls. The unemployment rate was 7.7% in November, it reported.
ADP doesn't generate jobless figures, nor does it track government employment, which has stabilized after sharp losses, particularly at public schools. After significantly overshooting the Bureau of Labor Statistics' numbers earlier last year, ADP's record of assessing job growth has improved somewhat in the last couple of months after revamping its methodology in collaboration with Moody's Analytics, a research firm.
If ADP's numbers turn out to be close to the official data reported Friday, it will mean that businesses picked up their hiring despite worries about the so-called fiscal cliff of budget cuts and tax increases, which was mostly averted after a deal passed the House on New Year's Day.
"The fiscal cliff debate has not done significant damage to the job market," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, in a conference call announcing the ADP results Thursday. Though encouraged by the ADP report, Zandi said he did not think it spelled any real change in the job-growth trend of about 150,000 a month in the last couple of years. For one thing, construction payrolls last month were probably boosted by recovery efforts after Superstorm Sandy, which struck the Northeast in late October.
"This was a very good report, very solid ... [and it] shows resilience in the economy," Zandi said. But he added, "I don't think it signals we're off and running."
Professional forecasters generally are expecting the Bureau of Labor Statistics report Friday to show that about 150,000 jobs were added in December, with the unemployment rate stuck at 7.7%.
Separately, layoff announcements by companies last month dropped 43% to 32,556, according to the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. For all of last year, announced job cuts totaled 523,362 -- the lowest 12-month tally since 1997, the company said.