Private job creation slowed even further last month as firms added just 156,000 jobs in April, ADP said in a Wednesday report.
"The job market appears to have stumbled in April. Job growth noticeably slowed, with some weakness across most sectors. One month does not make a trend, but this bears close watching as the financial market turmoil earlier in the year may have done some damage to business hiring," Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, said in a statement.
Economists polled by Reuters expected the number to come in at 195,000. In March, private payrolls were revised down 6,000 to 194,000.
Small businesses added the most jobs last month, as employment in such businesses grew by 93,000, at about the same rate as March.
"Despite the softest overall monthly jobs added in three years, small businesses remained an engine for job growth in April," Ahu Yildirmaz, vice president and head of the ADP Research Institute, said in a statement. "Smaller businesses are less susceptible to global conditions, such as low commodity prices and the strong dollar, [and] that may have caused larger businesses to ease up on hiring."
Job growth in medium-sized businesses slowed considerably, as these firms added just 39,000 jobs last month, compared to 66,000 a month earlier.
The ADP report comes two days ahead of the Labor Department's closely watched monthly jobs report, which is expected to show the U.S. economy added 200,000 jobs last month, according to a Reuters estimate.