The private sector added 110,000 jobs in October, a bit better than expected but still indicative that the labor market is showing little improvement.
Coupled with a report showing that planned layoffs at U.S. firms dropped in October after hitting a more than two-year high the month before, unemployment is showing only grudging signs of improvement.
"This sort of number is consistent at best with I'd say holding the unemployment rate constant," Joel Prakken, chairman of Macroeconomic Advisors, said in a interview.
Prakken's firm and ADP compile the monthly report on private sector job creation that serves as a warmup for the government's nonfarm jobs report, which will come on Friday.
While the ADP report does not include government employment, it often leads economists to revise their estimates for the total labor market. Consensus is for the government's report to show a net of 93,000 jobs created in October and for the unemployment rate to remain at 9.1 percent.
The service sector provided 114,000 jobs for the month, a decrease from 122,000 in September, while the goods-producing sector fell 4,000 and manufacturing lost 8,000 positions.
Smaller firms did better at creating jobs.
Companies with between 50 and 499 workers saw the job count go up 53,000, while those with 500 or more workers lost 1,000 jobs. Small goods-producing companies saw no not job increase.
Employers announced 42,759 planned job cuts last month, tumbling 63.1 percent from 115,730 the month before, according to a report from consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas. It was the lowest level in four months.
Still, October's job cuts were up 12.6 percent from the same time a year ago, when 37,986 layoffs were announced. For 2011 so far, employers have announced 521,823 cuts, outpacing the 449,258 layoffs announced during the first 10 months of 2010.
The total for the year remains well off recession levels, the report said. In 2009, layoffs stood at 1,192,587 by October.
Fewer layoffs in the financial and government sectors drove the decrease last month, though they are still the top job-cutting industries for the year.
"We seem to be in a pattern of two or more consecutive months with low job-cut totals, followed by a sudden spike one month, typically resulting from a small number of large layoffs," John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said in a statement. "But this is not surprising in light of how slow and uneven this recovery has been. We will probably see more of the same through the first half of 2012."
Meanwhile, hiring plans surged to 159,177 last month from 76,551 in September, as companies announced seasonal positions. Retail jobs led the way with 133,940 openings.
The release comes two days ahead of the key U.S. jobs report from the government, which is forecast to show the economy created 95,000 jobs last month.
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