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Job growth continued to cool in May, with private companies adding 173,000 new positions, according to a report Thursday from ADP and Moody's Analytics.
The closely watched private payrolls count was right around Wall Street expectations, with economists surveyed by Reuters anticipating growth of 175,000. The number also was a bit higher than April, which posted an upwardly revised 166,000 new jobs. The ADP/Moody's count has averaged 188,000 in 2016.
Moreover, the gains came entirely from the service sector, which added 175,000 positions. Goods-producing companies actually lost 1,000 jobs (ADP rounds its figures, creating a discrepancy from the final number). Manufacturing subtracted 3,000 jobs.
Small businesses led the way in job creation, with companies that employ fewer than 50 workers adding 76,000 positions. Medium-sized firms (50-499 employees) contributed 63,000 while large companies added 34,000.
Among industries, professional and business services led the way with 43,000, trade, transportation and utilities added 28,000 and construction and financial activities contributed 13,000 apiece.
"Job creation appears to have slowed as we move further into 2016," Ahu Yildirmaz, head of the ADP Research Institute, said in a statement. "Challenging global conditions affecting hiring at large companies and a tightening labor market for skilled workers are among the factors that may be contributing to the slowdown."
The ADP/Moody's report comes a day ahead of the important nonfarm payrolls report from the Labor Department. Economists expect that number to show a gain of 160,000 for May, with the unemployment rate holding steady at 5 percent.
However, some economists think the recently resolved six-week-long Verizon strike will weigh on the May number. Capital Economics estimates that the impasse will cut as much as 50,000 from the total, with the firm projecting the government count to come in at just 120,000.
The ADP/Moody's count did not include Verizon workers because it counts workers on the company's official payroll. The government report won't include the strikers because they weren't actually paid during the period. Had the strikers been deducted from the count, the actual number would have been closer to 138,000, according to estimates from JPMorgan Chase.
The jobs data likely will figure significantly into the Fed's decision on whether to raise interest rates this summer. Traders currently give just a 21 percent probability to a June rate hike, but July has a 58 percent change, according to CME data.