After a big miss in December, the ADP employment report once again predicts positive job growth in the private sector, but at the lowest rate in six months.  The payroll management firm’s analysis shows 175,000 jobs added in January, down 50,000 from the previous month and the lowest since August:

Private sector employment increased by 175,000 jobs from December to January according to the January ADP National Employment Report®. Broadly distributed to the public each month, free of charge, the ADP National Employment Report is produced by ADP®, a leading global provider of Human Capital Management (HCM) solutions, in collaboration with Moody’s Analytics. The report, which is derived from ADP’s actual payroll data, measures the change in total nonfarm private employment each month on a seasonally-adjusted basis.

Last month, the 225K level predicted turned out to be 74K overall from BLS. This metric often (but not always) overshoots the actual data from BLS, but not usually by that far. The overall level in this report, if it pans out this time, would be enough to keep pace with population growth but not much more than that. It also shows a slowdown in job expansion in its own series after a peak in November:

adp-jan-14

The report has some bad news in manufacturing:

Goods-producing employment rose by 16,000 jobs in January, down from a downwardly-revised figure of 50,000 in December. Nearly all of the growth came from the construction industry which added 25,000 jobs over the month; this followed increases of 30,000 and 32,000 in the prior two months. Manufacturing lost jobs in January; the decline of 12,000 followed a revised gain of 16,000 in the prior month and was the first decline in industry payrolls since July 2013.

The report missed expectations, but not by a large amount:

Private companies created 175,000 new positions in January, a bit lower than in expected but in keeping with the pace of job creation over the past two years, according to the latest report from ADP and Moody’s Analytics.

Economists expected the ADP to report that private companies created 180,000 jobs in January, down from the downwardly revised 217,000 positions in December.

Reuters recalls ADP’s big miss last month:

December’s initial reading from ADP failed to foreshadow accurately the Labor Department’s report, which showed that just 74,000 jobs were created in December. That was the lowest job creation total in nearly three years, but was largely blamed on the month’s bout of freezing weather across the country.

This time around, analysts are looking for the government data to show that 185,000 jobs were created in January, all of them in the private sector; the private payrolls forecast is also 185,000, according to a Reuters survey.

Even a BLS report of 185,000 is just barely above stagnation level, though. The only real cheer one could take from that is that it matches expectations, which means nothing significant to the economy. If that’s the measure of success, it’s a clear sign that our sights are set too low.