The U.S. economy created fewer private sector jobs in February, a closely watched barometer of labor conditions reported on Wednesday, as pervasive cold weather appeared to restrain hiring.
Employers added 139,000 private sector jobs, payroll processor ADP said in its monthly National Employment Report, a figure below Wall Street's expectations of 160,000, and only slightly stronger than January's pace of 127,000, which was revised down from 175,000.
The ADP report, which comes just ahead of the Labor Department's more consequential non-farm payrolls, did little to alter the market's view about Federal Reserve policy. Most analysts expect the Fed to continue with its plan to scale back its massive bond purchases. In recent days, Fed officials have stated that a run of weak data in January and February had been distorted by the harsh weather.
"The latest data fails to really show signs of slowdown while shoring up optimism that the payback resulting from the cold winter will produce a positive hiring rebound come the spring," said Andrew Wilkinson, chief market analyst at Interactive Brokers.
The ADP data often diverge sharply from the government's official report. Nonetheless, given the prolonged cold snap, investors have mostly discounted the weak figures. In recent sessions, stocks have rallied despite weak data, falling back only on risk-aversion stemming from Ukraine's political standoff with Russia.