Private-sector employers added 138,000 jobs in February

Private-sector employers added 139,000 jobs in February, the third straight month of subpar growth.

Jobs growth has been sapped in recent months, primarily, by severe winter weather, according to the ADP national employment report released Wednesday.

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January's figures were revised down to 127,000 from the 175,000 initially reported as ADP better aligned its data with the federal government's report, which is due out Friday.

But Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s Analytics who works with ADP on the numbers, said there is some good news to draw from the spate of sluggish economic data — most of the factors weighing on a faster economic expansion are temporary and growth should pick up through the spring and into the summer.

Zandi argued that the reduction in food stamp and unemployment benefits programs are playing a role in slowing consumer spending.

Economists consider the programs an economic stimulus.

Inventories also are slowing  down because businesses stockpiled at a much faster rate through the final six months of last year.

Despite the winter slow down, Zandi said tunderlying jobs growth is still running about 200,000 a month, like it was through the end of last year.

"We should see a snap back from the weather effects," Zandi said.

"There is a lot of uncertainty but it will start to get a better and will become clearer as we move into March then April, May and June."

If stock market growth is any indication, Zandi said he thinks he's correct in assuming that the economy is doing better than it's showing on the surface right now.

On the jobless benefits front, more than 1.3 million lost their federal benefits at the end of last year and the number of those affected has ballooned to nearly 2 million.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said he plans to introduce a measure that will provide another round of the emergency benefits that help those who have been out of work for at least six months and have exhausted state-level benefits.

Zandi expects the government's Friday figure will come in around 130,000 but he won't be surprised if the figure is even lower than that — 100,000 to 110,000 — because of the timing on when the data was collected, mostly during periods of bad weather.

Construction added 14,000 and manufacturing hired 1,000, according to the ADP report.

Also, small businesses, which have struggled during the economic downturn, are leading the way on jobs growth, a trend that Zandi said was promising.

The addition in jobs in smaller firms can be attributed to the improving housing market, a sector that economists expect to take off this year. 

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