The U.S. labor market posted another month of surprising strength in May as companies added jobs at a pace well above expectations, according to a report Thursday from payroll processing firm ADP.
Private sector employment increased by a seasonally adjusted 278,000 for the month, ahead of the Dow Jones estimate for 180,000 and a bit lower than the downwardly revised 291,000 in April. May’s increase took the payroll growth so far in 2023 to 1.09 million.
The ADP report noted that the distribution of job gains was “fragmented” for the month, as increases were concentrated in leisure and hospitality, which added 208,000 positions, and natural resources and mining, which saw a gain of 94,000.
Construction added 64,000 jobs, but multiple other categories had declines.
For instance, manufacturing saw a drop of 48,000, financial activities lost 35,000, and education and health services was off by 29,000. Trade, transportation and utilities posted an increase of 32,000 while the other services category added 12,000.
From a size perspective, companies with 500 or more workers lost 106,000 jobs. Small firms, with fewer than 50 workers, added 235,000 positions.
One area of note for ADP was a slowdown in the pace of wage gains, with annual pay up a still-robust 6.5% in May but down from the 6.7% increase in April. Those switching jobs reported an annual increase of 12.1%, off a percentage point from the month before.
“This is the second month we’ve seen a full percentage point decline in pay growth for job changers,” Nela Richardson, ADP’s chief economist said. “Pay growth is slowing substantially, and wage-driven inflation may be less of a concern for the economy despite robust hiring.”
The ADP count comes a day ahead of the Labor Department’s more closely watched nonfarm payrolls report, which is expected to show job growth of 190,000 in May following a gain of 253,000 in April.
ADP’s report serves as a precursor to the government’s tally, though the two sometimes can differ considerably. The Labor Department said private payrolls rose by 230,000 in April.
The payroll gains have come despite the Federal Reserve’s efforts to tackle inflation and slow the labor market through a series of interest rate increases. Central bank officials have said in recent days that they may be in favor of skipping another hike in June as they weigh the impact of policy tightening that began in March 2022.
A separate report Thursday showed that initial filings for unemployment benefits were little changed last week.
Jobless claims totaled 232,000 for the week ended May 27, up 2,000 from the previous week and slightly below the Dow Jones estimate for 235,000. Continuing claims edged higher as well to 1.795 million.