Bloomberg News/Landov

Job seekers wait in line during a job fair in Los Angeles, California.

The numbers: Private-sector employment slowed sharply in November, payroll processor ADP said Wednesday. The gain was well below forecasts from economists surveyed by Econoday who expected a gain of 156,000. It’s the smallest gain since May.

What happened: Large businesses, meaning those with about 500 employees or more, added 27,000 jobs. Mid-sized enterprises (50-499 employees) added 29,000 positions, while small employers, or those with one to 49 workers, tacked on 11,000 jobs.

Goods-producing sectors such as manufacturing, construction and mining were a weak spot, with 18,000 jobs lost. That’s the third straight month of job declines in the sector. Trade and transportation lost 15,000 jobs. Service-providing sectors gained 85,000 jobs

Big picture: Economists use the figures from ADP, the payroll processor for millions of American workers, to get a sense of how many new jobs the U.S. Labor Department employment report is likely to show a few days later, but economists quickly note that ADP is far from infallible.

Prior to the ADP data, economists expected Friday’s government report will show 189,000 jobs created in November up from 128,000 in the prior month, but the increase will include workers returning to General GM, -0.98%  following the end of the four-week strike by the United Auto Workers. The ADP data is not impacted by the UAW strike.

Overall, economists expect the labor market to cool down as economic growth is currently slowing. The government’s estimate of job growth has already moderated to 167,000 per month so far this year from 223,000 in 2018.

What ADP said: “The job market is losing its shine,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics.

What economists said: “What today’s number does seem to suggest is that underlying momentum in the U.S. economy is slowing, with the 3-month average of the ADP survey pretty consistent with the circa 1% growth rate we are forecasting for fourth-quarter GDP,” Andrew Grantham, economist CIBC World Markets.

Market reaction: Stocks SPX, -0.66%   were still set to open higher Wednesday on reports that the U.S. and China are closer to a limited deal than President Donald Trump had indicated in comments to reporters on Tuesday.

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