private employers unexpectedly cut jobs in August, a report by a payrolls processor showed on Wednesday, delivering another blow to the already faltering economic recovery.
A separate report showed the number of planned layoffs at firms fell to their lowest level in 10 years though, but there is little to suggest companies are on the verge of hiring on a scale that would lower the unemployment rate.
The private sector cut 10,000 jobs in August compared to a revised gain of 37,000 in July, ADP Employer Services said. The July figure was originally reported as a gain of 42,000.
The figures come ahead of the government's much more comprehensive labor market report on Friday, which includes both public and private sector employment and is expected to show job losses driven by the public sector.
Clearly, last month was a bad month. We already know that. And we know that some of the numbers are clearly going to be bad, said Ned Riley, chief executive officer at Riley Asset Management in Boston.
I'm still very concerned about Friday's report, because of the impact of census workers, but the ADP report doesn't change my thinking about what to expect. Friday's number was already supposed to be significantly on the downside.
U.S. stock index futures trimmed their gains after the ADP report and government bonds initially erased some of their losses before selling off further. The U.S. dollar extended its losses versus the yen.
The median of estimates from 34 economists surveyed by Reuters for the ADP report, which was jointly developed with Macroeconomic Advisers LLC, was for a rise of 19,000 private-sector jobs in August.
The ADP release followed the Challenger report, which showed the number of planned layoffs at firms fell 17 percent in August from the prior month.
Employers announced 34,768 planned job cuts last month, down from 41,676 in July, outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. said.
It was the first month-on-month decline since April, when planned job losses had hit a seven-year low, and the lowest level since June 2000.
Though plans for layoffs are down, however, that still might not mean that hiring is at the top of companies' agenda.
I think it's pretty clear what's happened is firing has stopped -- we're not losing jobs at the disheartening pace we were a year-and-a-half ago -- but widespread hiring has really not begun, said Joel Prakken, chairman of Macroeconomic Advisers LLC.
Friday's nonfarm payrolls report is expected to show a fall overall of 100,000 in August, based on a Reuters poll of analysts, but a rise in private payrolls of 41,000.
Economists often refer to the ADP report to fine-tune their expectations for the payrolls numbers, though it is not always accurate in predicting the outcome.
In any case, the grim quality of the jobs data is likely to rekindle debate on how to get more people back to work, with the unemployment rate still high at 9.5 percent and expected to rise to 9.6 percent with Friday's report for August.
Departing White House economist Christina Romer called on Wednesday for further steps to stimulate the economy, saying high budget deficits should not be an excuse for allowing the unemployed to suffer.
We have tools that would bring unemployment down without worsening our long-run fiscal outlook, if we can only find the will and the wisdom to use them, Romer said in excerpts from a speech she will deliver later at the National Press Club.
In other data, mortgage applications for home purchasing and refinancing increased last week as interest rates hit a new low, a glimmer of hope for a housing market that has failed to find footing in the absence of government support.
Demand for home loan refinancing rose for a fifth straight week, a development that may provide a much-needed jolt to a flailing economy as it could portend an increase in consumer spending.
(Additional Reporting by Leah Schnurr and Ryan Vlastelica)