Jobs growth stays chilled in February

Washington - A private survey shows that U.S. companies added slightly more jobs in February than in the previous month, but harsh winter weather weighed on hiring for the third straight month.

Payroll processor ADP said Wednesday that businesses added 139,000 jobs last month, up from only 127,000 in January. But January's figure was revised sharply lower from an original estimate of 175,000.

The data suggests that the government's jobs report for February, to be released Friday, will show only modest gains. Economists forecast it will show that employers added 145,000 jobs in February. That is below the average gains of nearly 205,000 jobs a month in the first 11 months of last year.

The ADP numbers cover only private businesses and often diverge from the government's report. In January and December its initial figures were much higher than the official count. The Labor Department said employers added 113,000 jobs in January and just 75,000 in December.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics which helped compile the report, said that hiring should rebound once the weather improves. Chilly temperatures and snowstorms caused many businesses to close last month and possibly delay hiring.

Some companies also built up large stockpiles of goods in the second half of last year, which means they are likely ordering fewer products in the current quarter, slowing output.

"They're all temporary weights on growth, and we should see a pickup ... as we move into the spring and summer months," Zandi said.

The unseasonably cold weather may have shaved 0.2 percentage points from the economy's growth rate in the January-March quarter, according to economists at IHS Global Insight.

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