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Private sector job creation came in lighter than expected in September but remained essentially in the same slow-but-steady growth range, according to a report Wednesday.
ADP and Moody's Analytics pegged the monthly total at 166,000, lower than estimates of 180,000, with service-sector positions again leading the way.
While generally used as an indicator for what the Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly count will look like, the report takes on special significance now.
The government shutdown is likely to prevent the BLS from releasing the nonfarm payrolls count Friday, meaning markets will have little else to gauge jobs growth on than the ADP numbers.
In turn, the Federal Reserve is closely watching the employment picture to decide whether it should begin to ease back on its $85 billion a month bond-buying program.
The ADP report was largely in keeping with past trends: Small businesses led the way in job creation with 74,000, while large companies added 64,000 and medium-sized contributed 28,000.
Services, which covers a wide swatch from bar and restaurant jobs up to professional assistants, was by far the largest growth areas with 147,000 new jobs.