The pace of U.S. private sector job growth slowed in August for the second month in a row with employers adding 91,000 positions, a report by a payrolls processor showed on Wednesday.
Economists surveyed by Reuters had forecast the ADP National Employment Report would show a gain of 100,000 jobs. July's private payrolls were revised down to an increase of 109,000 from the previously reported 114,000.
August's gain was the smallest number of private jobs added since May's disappointingly small reading of 35,000.
The ADP figures come ahead of the U.S. government's much more comprehensive labour market report on Friday, which includes both public and private sector employment.
That report is expected to show a rise in overall non-farm payrolls of 75,000 in August, based on a Reuters poll of analysts, and a rise in private payrolls of 105,000.
Economists often refer to the ADP report to fine-tune their expectations for the payrolls numbers, though it can be erratic in predicting the outcome.
"It is largely in line with expectations. But with the market so nervous and the ongoing talk of (further quantitative easing), the fact that we came in just a bit below expectations might fan further concerns," said Omer Esiner, senior analyst at Commonwealth Foreign Exchange in Washington.
U.S. stock index futures were unchanged immediately following the report with Wall Street set for a higher open as comments from Federal Reserve officials boosting hopes of more monetary stimulus. Treasuries prices pared gains and the euro turned positive against the dollar.
A separate report earlier on Wednesday showed the number of planned layoffs at U.S. firms declined in August after rising for three months in a row, but the cuts were still up sharply from a year ago amid government job losses.
Employers announced 51,114 planned job cuts, down 23 per cent from 66,414 in July, according to the report from consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. July's figure had been a 16-month high.
But August's job cuts jumped compared to a year ago, rising 47 per cent from 34,768. Cuts at the federal government level led the way and more are expected to come with the United States under pressure to cut federal budgets, the report said.
The Mortgage Bankers Association said on Wednesday applications for U.S. home mortgages tumbled last week as demand for refinancing sagged for the second week in a row.
The industry group said its seasonally adjusted index of mortgage application activity, which includes both refinancing and home purchase demand, dropped 9.6 per cent in the week ended Aug 26.