In the latest indication of a strengthening U.S. labor market, private-sector employers added 257,000 jobs in December, the biggest gain of the year, according to ADP.
The payroll processor said in its monthly employment report that the service sector fueled most of December’s gain, hiring 234,000 workers, up from an upwardly revised 213,000 in November.
“Strong job growth shows no signs of abating,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, which collaborated on the report. “The only industry shedding jobs is energy. If this pace of job growth is sustained, which seems likely, the economy will be back to full employment by mid-year.”
Hiring by manufacturing firms was subdued, but producers added positions for the second straight month.
“Manufacturers have eliminated positions as a strong dollar, weak energy prices and a softer global economy have sapped demand, but in recent months firms in the sector have added modest amounts of workers,” the Wall Street Journal said.
Construction companies also increased payrolls, adding 24,000, up sharply from November.
“The labor markets are finishing the year with a bang,” MUFG Union Bank managing director Chris Rupkey told the WSJ, while cautioning that an unusually warm December may have led to a payroll number that exaggerates the labor market’s strength.
On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will release its job numbers.
Economists polled by the Journal expect the agency to report an increase of 210,000 nonfarm payrolls, which would about match the November gain. Economists expect the unemployment rate to fall to 4.9%, which would be the lowest since February 2008.
“When the Federal Reserve last month lifted its benchmark rate for the first time in nearly a decade, Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen said the decision reflected confidence in the U.S. economy’s substantial improvement in labor-market conditions,” the WSJ wrote. “By the Fed’s most recent projections, the jobless rate is seen ending 2016 at 4.7%, and stabilizing there over the next several years.”