Companies added 216,000 workers to their payrolls in February, boosted again by a surge in services sector employment, according to data released by ADP on Wednesday.
The 216,000 increase is up from a revised 173,000 jobs added in January, and topped the 208,000 new jobs economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters had been expecting.
Job growth averaged above 200,000 a month in the past five months.
Employment in the services sector grew by 170,000 in February, after rising a revised 149,000 in January. The goods-producing sector saw an increase of 46,000 jobs in February. Manufacturing employment increased by 21,000, while construction employment advanced 16,000 and the financial sector added 14,000 jobs during the period.
Employment grew in all the major sectors of the economy tracked in the report, and across payrolls of all sizes, Joel Prakken, chairman of Macroeconomic Advisers LLC, said in a statement.
Conditions continue to improve at a moderate pace and are consistent with other indicators suggesting some firming of the labor market, Prakken added.
Small businesses, those with fewer than 50 employees, made up half of the job gains by hiring 108,000 workers.
Large companies with 500 or more employees hired 20,000 new workers, while medium-sized businesses added 88,000 to their payrolls.
The ADP report, which doesn't measure government workers, typically sets the tone for Friday's highly anticipated monthly jobs report, but ADP's figures have traditionally been above the government's numbers.
The Labor Department is expected to report nonfarm payrolls growth of 210,000 and an unchanged unemployment rate of 8.3 percent, according to Reuters estimates.