US companies increased headcount at a relatively sluggish pace in August, according to a revamped private report that suggests hiring is downshifting in an economy buffeted by high inflation and rising interest rates.\

Businesses’ payrolls rose 132,000 this month, the smallest gain since the start of 2021, after a nearly 270,000 increase in July, according to newly compiled data from ADP Research Institute in collaboration with Stanford Digital Economy Lab. The latest report released Wednesday reflects updated methodology and includes historical jobs data on a monthly and weekly basis for the last 12 years.

The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for a 300,000 gain in private employment.

“Our data suggests a shift toward a more conservative pace of hiring, possibly as companies try to decipher the economy’s conflicting signals,” Nela Richardson, chief economist at ADP, said in a statement. “We could be at an inflection point, from super-charged job gains to something more normal.”

The figures, which are based on payroll transactions of more than 25 million US workers, offer a supplementary view of labor market conditions ahead of the government’s monthly jobs report. Economists will likely take ADP’s data into account, along with a slew of other labor market indicators, when determining to what extent the Federal Reserve’s rapid pace of monetary tightening is impacting the health of the broader jobs market. 

In June, ADP announced that it would be teaming up with the Stanford Digital Economy Lab to retool the report’s methodology to “provide a more robust, high-frequency view of the labor market and trajectory of economic growth.” The rThssseport has been on pause since the May report.

Payroll gains were concentrated in leisure and hospitality, trade, transportation and utilities, as well as construction. Employers cut jobs in finance, information, business services and education and health services. Job growth was strongest in the South and West.

The government’s monthly jobs report Friday is anticipated to show US private payrolls climbing about 300,000 in August, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists. The unemployment rate is forecast to hold at 3.5%, matching a 50-year low.

ADP has emphasized that its new approach to the data moves away from trying to forecast the government’s payrolls figures. However, the July ADP estimate suggests a more moderate pace of hiring than the Labor Department’s non-farm payrolls print showed earlier this month.

The report also includes fresh insights into wage growth. Those who changed jobs experienced a 16.1% pay increase from August 2021, more than twice the 7.6% gain for those who stayed at their job.

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