American job growth remained strong in August, though fell a bit from July, according to a closely watched survey released Thursday. Private sector employment increased by 204,000 jobs in August from July, the fifth consecutive month of employment gains over 200,000, according to ADP, which provides payroll services, human capital management and other business outsourcing.

The August report is “continuing an encouraging trend for the U.S. labor market,” Carlos Rodriguez, president and CEO of ADP, said in a statement.

"After weakness in early 2014, in large part because of the weather, job growth has kicked into a higher gear recently," said Gus Faucher, senior economist at PNC Financial Services Group.

Businesses with fewer than 50 employees account for about 78,000 jobs, businesses with 50 to 499 employees account for 75,000 jobs, and businesses with more than 500 employees account for 52,000 jobs, ADP said. About 51,000 jobs were added in professional and business services, 28,000 in trade, transportation and utilities, 23,000 in manufacturing, 15,000 in construction and 5,000 in finance.

The ADP survey has a margin of error of 40,000 jobs in either direction, but the employment gains are consistent with the low level of initial jobless claims, said Paul Dales, senior U.S. economist for Capital Economics.

Jobless claims changed little last week from the week before, rising by 4,000 to 302,000 in the week ended Aug. 30, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week moving average rose 3,000 to 302,750, and the number of people on benefits fell to a low of more than seven years.

On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will release its estimate of unemployment and wage growth over August. 

Faucher predicts the unemployment rate will decline to 6.1 percent in August from 6.2 percent in July.