WASHINGTON -- U.S. businesses added jobs at a healthy pace in August, according to a private survey, the fifth straight month of solid gains.
Payroll processor ADP said Thursday that private employers added 204,000 jobs last month, down from 212,000 in July, which was revised slightly lower. Job gains above 200,000 are usually enough to lower the unemployment rate.
The figures suggest that the government's jobs report, to be released Friday, will also show a solid increase. But the ADP numbers cover only private businesses and sometimes diverge from the government's more comprehensive report.
Economists surveyed by FactSet forecast that the government's report will show that 220,000 jobs were added in August, while the unemployment rate slipped to 6.1 percent.
"The job gains are across the board in terms of payscale, which is very encouraging," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, which helps compile the report.
Manufacturers added 23,000 jobs in August, the most since December 2012, the ADP report said. Construction firms added 15,000. Professional and business services, which includes higher-paying sectors such as engineers, architects and accountants, gained 51,000, down from 60,000 in July.
Other data released Thursday also pointed to healthy hiring. Applications for unemployment benefits ticked up slightly to 302,000 last week, but that figure is at pre-recession levels and is consistent with strong job gains.
According to government data, employers have added an average of 230,000 jobs this year, up from 194,000 in 2013. That's lowered the unemployment rate to 6.2 percent in July from 6.7 percent at the end of last year.
Contact Chris Rugaber on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/ChrisRugaber