The private sector added 216,000 jobs in February, according to the latest national employment report from Automatic Data Processing.
That is up from the 173,000 jobs added in January. ADP creates the report in partnership with Macroeconomic Advisers using monthly payroll data.
Analysts surveyed by Econoday expected 203,000 new private-sector jobs in Febraury with a range of estimates between 190,000 and 260,000.
Capital Economics said the latest ADP report "adds to the evidence that U.S. labor market conditions are still improving."
Paul Ashworth, chief economist at the Toronto-based firm, said the ADP figure is shy of the consensus estimate for non-farm payrolls, which the government reports Friday.
"There is nothing in this report to change our estimate that private non-farm payrolls increased by a slightly bigger than consensus 240,000," Ashworth said. "Allowing for another decline in public sector employment, we believe that total non-farm payrolls increased by 220,000. Labor market conditions are clearly improving, although the latest data on incomes and expenditure are not quite as upbeat."
The ADP report shows the small business sector added 108,000 jobs in February, while medium-sized businesses put an additional 88,000 staffers on the payroll and large businesses hired 20,000 employees.
The goods-producing sector added 46,000 jobs, while the services sector added 170,000 positions. Manufacturing expanded its employee base by 21,000 employees.
TrimTabs Investment Research estimates the economy added 149,000 jobs in February, down from its revised estimate of 181,000 for January.
“To bring down the unemployment rate, the economy needs to generate at least 250,000 new jobs every month,” said Madeline Schnapp, director of macroeconomic research at TrimTabs. "Job growth of 149,000 new jobs is not terrible, but it is also not a result worth celebrating either."