U.S. companies added 238,000 workers in December, Roseland's ADP says

A sign posted on a shopfront window offers employment opportunity to happy and creative people on October 22, 2013 in Pasadena, Calif. Roseland's ADP Research Institute estimates that the U.S. added 238,000 private-sector jobs last month.(FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

By Bloomberg News
on January 08, 2014 at 11:11 AM, updated January 08, 2014 at 11:26 AM

Companies added more workers than projected in December as U.S. employers grew more optimistic about the prospects for demand, a private report based on payrolls showed today.

The 238,000 increase in employment was the biggest since November 2012 and followed a revised 229,000 gain in November that was stronger than initially estimated, according to the ADP Research Institute in Roseland. The December tally exceeded the most optimistic forecast in a Bloomberg survey in which the median projection called for a 200,000 advance.

A pickup in hiring coupled with wage gains are helping to spur faster growth in the consumer purchases that make up almost 70 percent of the economy. A Labor Department report this week may show private payrolls rose by 197,000 last month, according to the Bloomberg survey median.

“The job market ended 2013 on a high note,” Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics Inc. in West Chester, Pennsylvania, said in a statement. Moody’s produces the figures with ADP. “Job gains are broad-based across industries, most notably in construction and manufacturing. It appears that businesses are growing more confident and increasing their hiring.”

Stock-index futures fluctuated after equities rebounded yesterday from a three-day retreat. The contract on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index expiring in March rose less than 0.1 percent to 1,830.8 at 8:39 a.m. in New York. The yield on the benchmark 10-year note climbed to 2.99 percent from 2.94 percent late yesterday.

Survey Estimates

Estimates in the Bloomberg survey of 36 economists ranged from gains of 170,000 to 225,000 after a previously reported increase of 215,000 in November.

The December gain brought the 2013 average to 179,600 compared with 163,000 per month in the previous year, according to ADP data.

Construction increased headcount by 48,000 in December, the biggest gain since February 2006.

Factories added 19,000 jobs. Goods producers in 2013 added 286,000 workers, with almost 75 percent of the gains coming from the construction industry, ADP said.

Employment in trade, transportation and utilities increased 47,000, today’s report showed. Professional and business services employment rose by 53,000 last month, the most since November 2012.

Payrolls at service providers climbed by 170,000 jobs in December.

Company Size

Companies employing 500 or more workers added 71,000 jobs. Medium-sized businesses, with 50 to 499 employees, took on 59,000 workers and small companies expanded payrolls by 108,000.

The Labor Department will release its December employment report on Jan. 10. The economy probably added about 195,000 jobs after 203,000 a month earlier, according to the median projection in a Bloomberg survey.

“Consumer spending has accelerated and sentiment has improved, which is likely indicative of better labor market conditions,” Bank of America Corp. economists led by Ethan Harris wrote in a research note last week. “We look for notable gains in manufacturing, retail and construction jobs.”

A pickup at factories is helping to support the expansion, now in its fifth year. Manufacturing grew in December at the second-fastest pace in more than two years, according to the Institute for Supply Management. The purchasing managers group’s factory index eased to 57 from the prior month’s 57.3, which was the highest since April 2011, the Tempe, Arizona-based group said last week.

Factory Orders

Orders reported by purchasing managers were the strongest since April 2010 and an employment gauge reached its highest level since June 2011 in the ISM data.

Among companies pointing to a brighter economic outlook is Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford Motor Co., even as the automaker’s December sales trailed analysts’ estimates.

“We’ve had pretty good growth in manufacturing, ongoing, well sustained,” Ellen Hughes-Cromwick, Ford’s chief economist, said on a Jan. 3 conference call. “Housing sector gains likely to improve again this year. Job and income gains have been relatively stable. Inflation has been well contained and long- term interest rates are likely to be edging up, but remain low by historical standards.”

Housing Market

Sustained momentum in the housing market recovery is supporting payrolls in the construction industry.

Purchases of new homes exceeded projections in November, holding near a five-year high. Sales declined 2.1 percent to a 464,000 annualized pace from a revised 474,000 rate in October that was the strongest since July 2008, according to Dec. 24 figures from the Commerce Department.

“The housing market remains on track for a solid recovery and is likely to continue to improve over an extended period of time,” Stuart Miller, chief executive officer of Miami-based homebuilder Lennar Corp., said on a Dec. 18 earnings call. “The short supply of available homes and pent-up demand, along with a generally improving economy, will continue to drive the housing recovery forward.”

ADP in October 2012 changed the method it uses to calculate its employment figures dating back to 2001. The report is now derived from a larger sample, and is released jointly with Moody’s Analytics.