U.S. companies added just 139,000 jobs in February, well below expectations, according to figures from Automatic Data Processing Inc.

Most economists had forecast that business hiring slowed down, but had forecast the economy would add 160,000 jobs. At this anemic rate, job creation is not keeping pace with population growth.

Further, the January number was revised downward to 127,000, a massive drop from the previously announced 175,000. The November and December data were also revised downward as ADP's forecasts recently have erred to the optimistic side.

"The U.S. private sector added 139,000 jobs in February, well below the average over the last 12 months,” said Carlos Rodriguez, president and CEO of ADP.

Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, said, "February was another soft month for the job market. Employment was weak across a number of industries. Bad winter weather, especially in mid-month, weighed on payrolls. Job growth is expected to improve with warmer temperatures.”

Separately, initial jobless claims did not point to any improvement in the labor market with initial claims up 14,000 in the February 22 week to a 348,000 level.

The 4-week running average was unchanged at 338,250.

This was slightly higher than the month-ago trend in a reading that points to no improvement for the monthly employment report.

Continuing claims tell mostly the same story, up 8,000 in data for the February 15 week to 2.964 million.

But the 4-week average, at 2.955 million, was a bit lower than the month-ago comparison.

New unemployment claims are compiled weekly to show the number of individuals who filed for unemployment insurance for the first time.

In other news, the Institute for Supply Management’s non-manufacturing index slipped to 53.5 in February from 54 the previous month, which may be reflected in the ADP report which states only 1,000 jobs in manufacturing were created last month.