U.S. businesses added a solid 177,000 jobs in August, according to a private survey, suggesting that hiring remains healthy after two months of strong gains.
Payroll processor ADP said the job growth was driven by services firms such as retailers, financial services firms, and professional and business services, which includes higher-paying jobs like accountants, engineers and architects.
Construction firms cut jobs and manufacturing employment was unchanged.
The steady hiring could help fuel stronger growth in the second half of this year. Growth slumped in the winter and spring, falling to an annual rate of just 1 percent.
Yet consumers are more confident and are spending at a healthy clip, likely encouraged by robust hiring and signs that wages are picking up. Consumer confidence reached an 11-month high in August, lifted by a brighter outlook on the job market.
The ADP data cover only private businesses and often diverge from the official figures. Economists forecast that the government's jobs report, to be released Friday, will show a gain of 180,000 jobs, according to data provider FactSet. The unemployment rate is forecast to fall to 4.8 percent.
Employers added 255,000 jobs in July and a robust 292,000 in June, which was the most in eight months. Most analysts expect that those healthy gains make it more likely the Federal Reserve will raise the short-term interest rate it controls by December.
Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, which helps compile the ADP report, pointed out in conference call with reporters that the government's jobs data in August typically comes in low and then is revised higher.
He predicts Friday's report will show that roughly 150,000 jobs were added, but will later be revised in the following months to as high as 190,000.
The low initial figure typically occurs because many companies report their hiring figures late to the government given low staff levels in August. The government also has difficulty seasonally adjusting the figures to reflect back-to-school hiring.
Large companies added 70,000 jobs in August, the ADP report said, the most since February. That suggests they are less concerned about recent global headwinds, such as the strong dollar, which makes U.S. goods more expensive overseas, cutting into exports.