Wednesday morning, before the opening bell, the ADP National Employment Report was released, indicating a 183,000 private sector seasonally adjusted payroll increase for the month of February, missing expectations for 190,000 added jobs. However, partially offsetting the weak results, January's reading was revised up to +300,000, from +213,000 previously reported, and lowered December's reading to +263,000 from +271,000.
The headline reading can be further broken down into a "goods-producing" sector and a "service-providing" sector. The goods-producing sector accounted for 44,000 jobs, while the service-providing sector accounted for 139,000.
Within the goods-producing sector, the construction industry led the way, adding 25,000 jobs, while there was an increase of 17,000 jobs in manufacturing and 3,000 jobs added in the Natural Resources & Mining industry in February.
Job gains in the service-providing sector were across the board, led by Professional & Business (49,000), followed by Education & Health (37,000); Financial Activities (21,000); Trade, Transportation & Utilities (14,000); Other Services (8,000); Information (7,000); and Leisure & Hospitality (4,000).
By business size, there were gains across the board as well, with small businesses (1-49 employees) adding 12,000 jobs, midsize businesses (50-499 employees) adding 95,000 workers, and large businesses (500+ employees) adding 77,000 jobs in February.
Commenting on the results, Ahu Yildirmaz, vice president and co-head of the ADP Research Institute, stated: "We saw a modest slowdown in job growth this month. Midsized companies have been the strongest performer for the past year. There was a sharp decline in small business growth as these firms continue to struggle with offering competitive wages and benefits."
Regarding the job market, Moody's Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi noted: "The economy has throttled back and so too has job growth. The job slowdown is clearest in the retail and travel industries, and at smaller companies. Job gains are still strong, but they have likely seen their high watermark for this expansion."
Remember, this report comes ahead of the Labor Department's release of nonfarm payroll numbers this Friday at 8:30 am, where we will be looking for an addition of 180,000 jobs. While the two reports are based on slightly different sources (ADP does not include government jobs, for example), the two readings do have a general tendency to illustrate the same trend.
Bottom line, while there are clearly trends that must be monitored, most notably the sustained impact wages and benefits could have on company margins, especially retail, when 1Q19 earnings roll around, we believe the report points a robust U.S. economy that is still expanding. Additionally, we would note that while wage inflation may pressure margins, it is also a key factor that provides for increased levels of disposable income and in that regard actually works to the benefit of discretionary names such as Kohl's (KSS) , Five Below (FIVE) and Amazon's (AMZN) e-commerce business.
Members interested in digging even deeper can view the official release here.