The private sector added 217,000 jobs in February, aided by the 13th consecutive month of gain in the service sector, according to the ADP National Employment Report. Last month's gain topped most analysts estimates and was better than January's increase of 189,000, recently revised upward a couple thousand. For December, Automatic Data Processing Inc. reported the private sector added 247,000 jobs. The payroll giant conducts the monthly survey, which excludes federal jobs, in conjunction with Macroeconomic Advisers. Analysts surveyed by expected jobs growth of 160,000 in February, while the firm noted the consensus estimate called for 165,000. A Dow Jones survey projected 170,000 new private-sector jobs. One economist didn't change his estimate for federal nonfarm payroll data coming later this week after seeing the ADP numbers. Capital Economics Chief U.S. Economist Paul Ashworth said he still expects the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics to report nonfarm payrolls gains of at least 193,000 for February. "Looking at the ADP detail, it is still notable that the biggest proportion of the job gains is among small firms employing less than 50 workers," Ashworth said. "Early in the recovery these smaller firms were being held back by tight credit conditions, but that no longer seems to be a restraint on the recovery." Meanwhile, TrimTabs Investment Research said the U.S. economy added 158,000 jobs in February. The firm bases its employment estimates on analysis of daily income tax deposits to the Treasury Department from all salaried employees and "are historically more accurate than initial estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics." "The good news is that the economy is growing and employment is increasing,” said Madeline Schnapp, director of macroeconomic research at TrimTabs. "The bad news is that the economy still needs government life support, and employment increases are not large enough to reduce the unemployment rate." Write to Jason Philyaw.