The number of U.S. jobs lost in the private sector fell in July but firms increased planned layoffs, data on Wednesday showed, suggesting the labor market remained troubled even as the pace of job losses slowed.
U.S. private employers cut 371,000 jobs last month, compared with a revised 463,000 cuts in June, according to the ADP Employer Services report, which is jointly developed with Macroeconomic Advisers LLC.
Economists had expected 345,000 job losses in July.
Separately, global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. said planned layoffs at U.S. firms increased in July for the first time in six months to 97,373, up 31 percent from June when it had hit a 15-month low.
The data left markets anxious that Friday's more comprehensive nonfarm payrolls report, which also includes public sector jobs, could show the employers shed more workers last month than economists had thought.
(ADP), coupled with the Challenger report that showed an increase from June in the number of layoff announcements is getting people to think that (Friday's) number may be worse than previously expected, said Lou Brien, market strategist at DRW Trading Group in Chicago.
The median of forecasts from analysts polled by Reuters is for U.S. employers to have cut 320,000 private and public sector jobs in July, down from a loss of 467,000 jobs in June.
Wall Street stocks edged lower after the jobs report stoked caution about the economic recovery while the dollar dipped against the Japanese yen.
President Barack Obama was scheduled to speak in Indiana later on Wednesday about the state of the U.S. economy.
In a separate report, the Mortgage Bankers Association said demand for U.S. home loans rose last week as a three-week low in 30-year fixed mortgage rates boosted applications for refinancing.
That came a day after U.S. data showed pending home sales jumped 3.6 percent in June, adding to speculation that the troubled housing market at or nearing a bottom.
Most folks are hopeful, based on all the numbers we've been seeing, that we've got a floor here and we're going to start seeing a long, slow recovery. said Jonathan Corr, chief strategy officer at Pleasanton, California-based mortgage software provider Ellie Mae.
(Additional reporting by Chris Reese, Lynn Adler and Richard Leong)
(Editing by Theodore d'Afflisio)