US businesses added 166,000 jobs last month, a sign of only modest improvement in hiring, according to a report today from ADP. The payroll company also said that private employers added just 159,000 jobs in August and 161,000 in July, both slightly lower than the previous estimates. The figures are taking on greater importance because they may be the only measure of the September job market for some time. The Labor Department will have to delay its September jobs report, scheduled for Friday, if the government shutdown doesn't end today.
The ADP data suggests that the economy has been growing too slowly to rapidly boost hiring. Economists forecast that it expanded at just a 2% annual rate in the July-September quarter, down from a 2.5% pace in the April-June quarter. At the same time, hiring slowed, according to the government's figures. Employers have added 155,000 jobs a month in the four months through August. That's down from an average of 205,000 in the first four months of the year. (Read more ADP stories.)