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 / Updated  / Source: Associated Press

U.S. businesses boosted hiring in April, according to a private survey, a positive sign the economy may improve after a sluggish start this year.

Payroll processor ADP said on Wednesday that private sector employers added 220,000 jobs in April, the most since November and up from 209,000 in March. Economists in a consensus survey expected ADP's national employment index to show the economy created 200,000 private sector jobs in April, up from March's 191,430 reading.

Job seekers fill out applications at a job fair in Baltimore. U.S. businesses boosted hiring in April, according to a survey by payroll processor ADP.PAUL J. RICHARDS / AFP/Getty Images

The report says most of the hiring occurred in service industries such as retail, transportation, and professional services. Construction firms added 19,000 jobs, a healthy gain. Manufacturing added just 1,000.

The figures suggest that the government's jobs report, to be released on Friday, could show a healthy gain. Economists forecast that report will show employers added 215,000 jobs in April. That would be the most in five months.

The ADP numbers cover only private businesses and often diverge from the government's more comprehensive report.

- The Associated Press