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January 3, 2019 11:00 AM, EST

Firms Hired Most Workers Since Early 2017, ADP Research Says

Factory Worker Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg News

Companies added the most workers in almost two years to U.S. payrolls in December, exceeding forecasts and signaling that the job market was solid as 2018 came to an end.

Private payrolls increased by 271,000 after a downwardly revised 157,000 advance in November, according to data released Jan. 3 from the ADP Research Institute in Roseland, N.J. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists was 180,000.

The figures, coming a day ahead of the monthly jobs report due from the Labor Department on Jan. 4, are a positive sign for private payrolls. Hiring was broad-based, reflecting gains in almost all industries, including manufacturing and construction. While growth in household purchases is underpinning demand for labor, the trade war with China has fueled business uncertainty.

Payroll Graph

Companies have continued to hire at a solid pace even as the economy is projected to grow at a slightly slower rate in the fourth quarter amid trade and other headwinds. Payrolls in goods-producing industries, which include builders and manufacturers, increased 47,000 after a 13,000 rise while service providers added 224,000 workers following 144,000 in November.