WASHINGTON - U.S. private payrolls recorded their biggest increase in seven months in September, boosted by hiring at construction sites and in the services sector, pointing to sustained labor market strength that should continue to underpin economic growth.
The economic outlook was bolstered by other data on Wednesday showing activity in the vast services sector accelerating to a 21-year high last month, with companies reporting strong order growth and hiring.
"The labor market continues to boil and is growing hotter," said Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG in New York. "More workers with money in hand to spend will lead to more consumer spending down the road."
Private payrolls jumped by 230,000 jobs in September, the largest gain since February, the ADP National Employment Report showed on Wednesday, after increasing 168,000 in August. Last month's rise beat economists' expectations for a 185,000 gain.
The ADP report, which is jointly developed with Moody's Analytics, was published ahead of the government's more comprehensive employment report for September due on Friday.
According to a Reuters survey of economists, nonfarm payrolls likely increased by 185,000 in September after surging 201,000 in August. The unemployment rate is forecast to fall one-tenth of a percentage point to 3.8 percent, an 18-year low first hit in May.
While the ADP report has a poor record predicting the private-payrolls component of the government's closely watched employment report, last month's jump underscored robust labor market conditions that are likely keep the Federal Reserve on track to raise interest rates again in December.
The U.S. central bank increased rates last week for the third time this year, noting that "the labor market has continued to strengthen" and "job gains have been strong, on average."
The dollar firmed marginally against a basket of currencies and U.S. Treasury yields rose. Stocks on Wall Street were trading higher, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average at an all-time high.
BROAD JOB GAINS
The ADP report showed construction payrolls rose by 34,000 jobs last month, accelerating from 3,000 in August. The services sector added 184,000 jobs in September, led by the professional and health services. Services sector employment increased by 145,000 jobs in August.
Separately, the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said on Wednesday its non-manufacturing activity index jumped 3.1 points to 61.6 last month, the highest reading since August 1997. A reading above 50 indicates expansion in the sector, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity.
Though companies remained upbeat about business conditions, the ISM reported lingering concerns "about capacity, logistics and the uncertainty with global trade."
Industries are bumping against capacity constraints in a robust economy and tightening labor market conditions.
Companies are increasingly reporting difficulties finding qualified workers to meet demand.
At the same time, the Trump administration's "America First" policies, which have left the United States embroiled in a bitter trade war with China and tit-for-tat tariffs with other trade partners, have raised the cost of some raw materials.
Washington last month slapped tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, with Beijing retaliating with duties on $60 billion worth of U.S. products. The United States and China had already imposed tariffs on $50 billion worth of each other's goods.
According to the ISM, while retailers were bullish about business they said there was "a lot of uncertainty" about the import duties and that this "may cause a shift in production sites." Wholesalers said the import tariffs were "inflating prices, which are difficult to pass along to the end user due to competitive pressures."
There were also complaints about labor shortages, especially truck drivers.