Private payrolls grew 117,000 in February, according to ADP, a disappointing figure in the midst of an economic recovery, and well below what economists expected.
With the exception of December, which saw a 75,000 decline in jobs, it was the slowest month of job growth since April, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the economy in full force.
“The labor market continues to post a sluggish recovery across the board,” said Nela Richardson, ADP's chief economist.
“We’re seeing large-sized companies increasingly feeling the effects of COVID-19, while job growth in the goods producing sector pauses," Richardson continued.
Jobs declined in the categories of manufacturing, construction and information, but saw steady increases in education and health, leisure and hospitality, and trade, transportation and utilities.
The service sector, Richardson said, had the best potential for recovery as the pandemic comes under control.
The latest data comes as congressional Democrats work to push through a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, which includes extensions for emergency unemployment benefits expiring in mid-March.
The sluggish growth in the labor market could boost the appetite for the enormous relief effort among moderates in Congress.
Official government jobs data for February, which will include updates to the unemployment rate and labor participation rate, comes out Friday.
In January, the unemployment rate stood at 6.3 percent.