U.S. companies ramped up hiring in January, adding the most new workers since June, according to a private survey.
Payroll provider ADP said Wednesday that businesses added 246,000 jobs last month, up from 151,000 in December. The hiring was widespread, with the construction, manufacturing, health care and shipping industries all adding jobs at a solid pace.
The figures suggest that job gains have accelerated after a sluggish patch in the second half of last year. With the unemployment rate already low, at 4.7 percent, employers may be forced to offer higher pay to attract workers, which could create broader income growth.
The ADP data cover only private businesses and often diverge from official figures. Economists forecast that the government's jobs report, due Friday, will show a gain of 175,000, according to data provider FactSet.
That figure may rise in the aftermath of the ADP report. Ted Wieseman, an economist at Morgan Stanley, boosted his forecast for the government's jobs report to 220,000 from 205,000. Wieseman also noted that fewer people have sought unemployment benefits this month, a proxy for layoffs.
"Every business survey released since the election ... has been much stronger, including rising hiring plans," Wieseman said. "Fewer people being fired and businesses potentially starting to increase new hires points to better net job growth."
Manufacturers added 15,000 jobs, the most in more than two years, ADP's report said. Other measures of manufacturing output have indicated that factories have largely rebounded from headwinds such as the strong dollar and slower overseas growth that had caused steady job losses for nearly two years.
Construction companies added 25,000 jobs, the most in four months, a figure that may have been lifted by warmer than usual weather.
Professional and technical services, which include highly-paid positions such as engineering and architects, added a more modest 8,000 jobs. Retailers, shipping firms and utility companies gained 63,000.
The economy is expanding, though at a modest pace. It grew 1.9 percent in the final three months of last year, and growth was just 1.6 percent for the full year, the slowest calendar-year performance in five years.
The economy hasn't grown at a healthy pace of 3 percent or more since 2005. President Donald Trump has pledged to lift growth to 4 percent and accelerate job creation, through tax cuts, deregulation and greater spending on infrastructure.