U.S. private-sector employers created 176,000 jobs last month, according to ADP, less than expected and a possible harbinger that Friday's report from the Labor Department on August nonfarm payrolls will disappoint.

Analysts surveyed by Briefing.com expected, on average, 180,000 jobs to be created in August, down from the July level of 198,000. Analysts polled by Bloomberg expected, on average, 177,000 jobs to be created in August, while other surveys indicated expectations of 184,000 jobs created.

The ADP jobs numbers, which are in line with the average monthly job creation numbers of the past 12 months, are particularly important now because it is widely believed that they are being closely watched by the Federal Reserve as it decides when to reduce its monetary stimulus.

Goods-producing employment rose by 11,000 jobs in August, at roughly half the growth rate of the previous month. Construction payrolls added 4,000 jobs, while manufacturing payrolls increased by 5,000, rebounding from a decline in July. 

"It's 'steady as she goes' in the job market. Job gains in August were consistent with increases experienced over the past two-plus years. There is little evidence that fiscal austerity and Health Care Reform have had a significant impact on the job market," said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics.