PhotoAnother strong month for private sector employment gains.

The ADP National Employment Report says payrolls rose by 214,000 from January to February with service-providing companies providing most of the strength.

Employment in that sector rose by 208,000 jobs in February, as professional/business services contributed 59,000 jobs. Trade/transportation/utilities grew by 20,000, and financial activities added just 8,000 new jobs -- the least since last August.

Goods-producing employment rose by 5,000 jobs in February, just over a quarter of January's upwardly revised 19,000. There were 27,000 new jobs in the construction industry, slightly above January's upwardly revised 26,000, while manufacturing lost 9,000 jobs -- the second largest drop in five years.

Small business on the move

Payrolls for businesses with 49 or fewer employees increased by 76,000 jobs last month, while employment among companies with 50-499 employees increased by 62,000 jobs. Employment at large companies -- those with 500 or more employees -- came in at 76,000, a big jump from January's 44,000. Companies with 500-999 employees added 14,000 jobs, while companies with over 1,000 employees gained 62,000 jobs.

"Large businesses showed surprisingly strong job gains in February, despite the continuation of economic trends that negatively impact big companies like turmoil in international markets and a strengthening dollar," said Ahu Yildirmaz, VP and head of the ADP Research Institute. "The gains were mostly driven by the service sector which accounted for almost all the jobs added by large businesses."

A trend for higher wages?

Stifel Fixed Income Chief Economist Lindsey Piegza notes the labor market has been rapidly improving towards full-employment with more than 60 consecutive months of positive job creation, but that wage growth has been "stubbornly low."

She says with back-to-back months of above-trend growth in salaries, the February jobs report from the Labor Department, due out this Friday, "will confirm if the upward momentum in wages is a sustainable trend or simply a temporary phenomenon."

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