In a couple bright spots, the services sector added the lion's share of positions in July, while large businesses overall reported their best month of hiring since December, adding 64,000 positions.
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The ADP report came ahead of Friday's government employment report for July. Economists expect a gain of 223,000 nonfarm payrolls and the jobless rate holding steady at 5.3 percent, according to Reuters.
Investors are paying careful attention to the labor market and other key numbers for clues on whether the Federal Reserve will deem the economy strong enough to hike interest rates for the first time since 2006 at its September meeting.
"I think we've been in a 3 percent economy. I think that's where we've been for the past year," said Moody's Analytics Chief Economist Mark Zandi, who helps compile the ADP report.
Acknowledging the government numbers are not showing that strength yet, he told CNBC: "I think with all the revisions, Q2 will be 3 percent."
The first read on second-quarter gross domestic product from the Commerce Department last week showed a slightly slower-than-expected growth rate of 2.3 percent. First-quarter GDP was revised to a slight expansion from an earlier contraction.