WASHINGTON -- Companies added nearly 300,000 jobs in December, according to an unofficial count by a private payroll firm -- more than in any month in the past decade. The news raised hopes that the government's official report Friday on last month's job creation could be a blockbuster.
While there were reasons to doubt the numbers, the report from Automatic Data Processing, and another showing strength in the nation's service industries, reversed what was shaping up to be an ugly day on Wall Street. It also generated optimism that the unemployment rate might finally start to fall.
Some economists expressed skepticism about ADP's monthly figures because they often don't track the official government employment data. Others said that the report's estimate of job gains was so high that it at least reinforced evidence that hiring is picking up as employers gain more confidence.