WASHINGTON -- The last monthly employment report before the presidential election comes out Friday -- and it looks as though October will be another month of modest job gains.
A widely followed survey released Thursday by a payroll processing firm found that the private sector added 158,000 jobs in October. Though that's considerably more than what analysts were projecting, the survey by Automatic Data Processing Inc. has overshot the official government tally by an average of about 50,000 in recent months.
Forecasters are expecting the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday to report payroll gains of about 125,000 for October. That would be a tad better than the 114,000 net increase in September but still just barely enough to keep pace with the growth in the workforce population.
Also Thursday, the Labor Department reported that new jobless claims dipped last week to 363,000 -- a drop of 9,000 from the prior week. Filings for new unemployment benefits have been highly volatile in recent weeks, but the underlying trend suggests no major change in layoff patterns.
The pace of layoffs has been fairly steady and low, but the problem is that employers remain reluctant to add many new workers at a time of economic and political uncertainties.
The ADP report Thursday is the first to be produced under a new partnership with the economics research firm Moody's Analytics. It incorporates a new methodology, but it remains to be seen whether its numbers turn out to be closer to the mark.
If the ADP survey is correct, Friday's jobs report from the government will show gains across a broad spectrum of service industries. The construction industry saw a sharp gain last month, according to the ADP report, while American manufacturers -- hurt by weaker trade and business investments -- posted another month of decline.
The ADP report said firms of all sizes added jobs in October, with nearly half of the 158,000 added jobs coming from companies with 1,000 or more employees.
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