Hiring by U.S. companies surged in December.
Private sector payrolls added 271,000 new positions in the month, according to the ADP/Moody’s Analytics survey released Thursday. Economists had estimated just 178,000.
That’s the best monthly performance since the surge of February 2018, when the economy added 280,000. The monthly average gain for the last year rose to 206,000.
November was revised down to 157,000 new jobs from the initially reported 179,000.
The U.S. private payroll numbers stand in stark contrast to data from China, which have indicated a much sharper slowdown. It also implies that the U.S. economy ended the year on a robust pace, defying expectations that it has already started to slow.
“Businesses continue to add aggressively to their payrolls despite the stock market slump and the trade war. Favorable December weather also helped lift the job market,” Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, said in a statement.
The private payroll numbers should push unemployment, already at the decades low level of 3.7 percent, even lower, Zandi added.
The numbers indicate that fears that trade disputes would weigh on American exporters have not become reality. Manufacturing added 12,000 jobs in the month, according to the report. Goods producers overall added 47,000.
Professional and business services grew by 66,000 new positions. Education and health services rose by 61,000 new jobs. Leisure and hospitality added 39,000 jobs.
Mining and natural resource extraction lost 2,000 jobs, likely a reflection of low oil prices.
Hiring was widespread across companies of all sizes. Small businesses added 89,000 jobs. Those with more than 49 workers but less than 500 added a strong 129,000. Larger companies added 54,000.