Companies in September created jobs at the slowest pace in six months as the labor market showed further signs of tightening, according to a report Wednesday from ADP and Moody's Analytics.
Private payrolls increased by 154,000 for the month, the lowest total since April and below the 2016 average of 181,000. The total also missed expectations of 166,000 from economists surveyed by Reuters, and was below the downwardly revised 175,000 in August.
Job creation again skewed toward the services sector, which added 151,000 to just 3,000 for goods-producing industries. Professional and business services led the way with 45,000 new positions while trade, transportation and utilities contributed 15,000 and construction and financial activities added 11,000 apiece.
The manufacturing sector continued its struggles, losing 6,000 jobs for the month.
Franchise positions, which include restaurants, auto parts and dealers, grocery stores, business services, hotels and real estate, contributed 26,000 to the total.
The overall trend, though, reflected a downward shift that economists believe is reflecting a tighter market.
"With job openings at all-time highs and layoffs near all-time lows, the job market remains in full-swing," Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, said in a statement. "Job growth has moderated in recent months, but only because the economy is finally returning to full employment."
Companies that employ fewer than 50 workers have been leaders in job creation, but that switched in September. Firms with more than 500 employees led the way, with 64,000 new jobs.
The numbers come two days before the closely watched nonfarm payrolls report for September. The Labor Department is expected to report 175,000 new jobs for the month, including 170,000 on private payrolls, with the headline unemployment report, which does not include those who have quit looking for work and those working part-time for economic reasons, to hold steady at 4.9 percent.
The Federal Reserve looks at the payrolls report for clues on the labor market and whether it will be appropriate to raise interest rates. Traders expect the U.S. central bank to hike its target interest rate a quarter point in December.