U.S. private employers added 9,000 jobs in July, according to a private report by ADP Employer Services, surprising analysts who were expecting a fall.
The ADP report comes ahead of the government's more comprehensive labor market report on Friday, which economists expect to show a decline 75,000 jobs.
Video: Analysis of the ADP Report
That would make July the seventh consecutive month of job losses for the world's largest economy, which is struggling under the effects of slowdown induced by the worst housing slump since the Great Depression.
Some analysts are cautious when interpreting the ADP report, which does not always correlate with the government's payrolls report.
"No other data suggest a real improvement in the state of the labor market and it is very unlikely that this report will be reflected in the official payroll numbers on Friday," said Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics in Valhalla, New York.
However, the ADP data lifted stock futures, indicating Wall Street would open higher. The dollar rose versus the euro. U.S. government bonds, which benefit more in periods of economic weakness, fell in the wake of the report.
In June, the private sector slashed 77,000 jobs, according to revised ADP data. June was originally reported as 79,000 jobs lost.
The median of estimates from economists surveyed by Reuters was for the ADP report to show a drop of 60,000 private-sector jobs in July.
The 32 forecasts ranged widely from a decline of 110,000 to a fall of 4,000.