March 7, 2012 at 8:29 AM ET
Private businesses stepped up hiring more than expected in February, according to a widely-watched survey that is often seen as a herald for the crucial monthly employment data due on Friday.
Payrolls processor ADP said Wednesday that private-sector employment increased by 216,000 on a seasonally-adjusted basis. Economists had been expecting a rise of 208,000, according to Reuters.
"This does suggest we are moving it the right direction. It supports the expectations of another 200,000-plus in Friday's payroll report. The jobs numbers are looking healthier," said Beth Ann Bovino, senior U.S. economist at Standard & Poor's.
January's payrolls figures were revised up to an increase of 173,000 from 170,000. The report is jointly developed with Macroeconomic Advisers LLC.
The job market has been showing signs of improvement in recent months, although the unemployment rate remains high at more than 8 percent.
Economists polled by Reuters are expecting Friday's report to show a gain of 210,000 in overall nonfarm payrolls, with the addition of 225,000 jobs in the private sector.
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.
Reuters contributed to this report.