The private sector created 192,000 new jobs in January, better than expectations and reflective of the slowly improving trend in the labor market.
Small businesses led the way, adding 115,000 new positions. Services again were the most prolific suppliers of new labor, adding 177,000 workers, the bulk coming from the 40,000 in professional and business services jobs.
The manufacturing sector lost 3,000 jobs. Goods-producing businesses added 15,000 positions, primarily in construction.
Economists had expected the report, compiled jointly by ADP and Moody's Analytics, to show the private sector created 165,000 new jobs in January.
"Job growth is accelerating," Moody's economist Mark Zandi told CNBC's "Squawk Box."
December saw private sector job gains of 185,000, which was revised down from the original estimate of 215,000.
The report sometimes causes economists to adjust their expectations for the monthly nonfarm payrolls report, which is expected to show the economy generated 166,000 new jobs in January while the unemployment rate held steady at 7.8 percent.
"The stronger January reading once again refutes the notion that employers froze on account of the 'fiscal cliff' and sets the labor market off to a bright start for 2013," said Andrew Wilkinson, chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak.
Jobs data is seen as critical to Federal Reserve monetary policy. The central bank's Open Markets Committee is meeting this week and will release its statement Wednesday at 2:15 pm. The Fed is not expected to change its program of buying $85 billion in bonds each month and holding its target funds rate near zero.
—By CNBC's Jeff Cox