Private-sector employers continued to cut jobs in March, highlighting the challenges still facing the nation's job market, according to a report released Wednesday.
Automatic Data Processing, which processes paychecks for one in every six U.S. employees, said private-sector employers cut payrolls by 23,000 jobs in March. It was the smallest monthly decline since February 2008.
Economists surveyed by Briefing.com had forecast a gain of 40,000 jobs in the month.
"American businesses are on the cusp of recovery, yet this report shows that they remain hesitant to increase their payrolls," Gary Butler, chief executive of ADP, said in a statement.
The service sector reported an increase of 28,000 jobs in March, marking the second consecutive monthly increase and the highest job growth since March of 2008.
However, that growth was offset by a loss of 51,000 jobs in the goods-producing sector and a drop of 9,000 manufacturing jobs.
Large businesses, those with 500 or more workers, saw employment decline by 7,000 jobs, while small-size businesses with fewer than 50 workers had a drop of 12,000 workers.
Employment among medium-size businesses, defined as those with between 50 and 499 workers, declined by 4,000 The ADP report precede the closely watched monthly jobs report from the Labor Department due Friday.
Economists expect that report to show employers added 190,000 jobs in March, compared to a loss of 36,000 jobs in February. The unemployment rate is expected to remain unchanged at 9.7%.