The private sector suffered its fifth consecutive month of shrinking job creation, according to the new ADP employment report this morning. The economy only added 169,000 jobs, the payroll services firm estimates for April, down slightly from 175K in March and way off of November 2014’s peak of 284K:

Private sector employment increased by 169,000 jobs from March to April according to the April ADP National Employment Report(R). …

“April job gains came in under 200,000 for the second straight month,” said Carlos Rodriguez, president and chief executive officer of ADP. “Companies with 500 or more employees had the slowest growth.”

Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, said, “Fallout from the collapse of oil prices and the surging value of the dollar are weighing on job creation. Employment in the energy sector and manufacturing is declining. However, this should prove temporary and job growth will reaccelerate this summer.”

Perhaps, but job creation has lost steam since last fall, and most of the fall in oil prices happened months ago. In fact, as this chart from NASDAQ shows, crude prices have been rising since mid-March, after stabilizing at the end of January:


Compare that to ADP’s job-creation chart this month:


There doesn’t seem to be much correlation to the price of crude in job creation. If there was, we would have seen a sharper drop earlier this year, and a rebound now. We’d also see specific impacts, while the decline in job growth has been broad. Employment growth has slowed for both small and large businesses, and for both goods- and service-producing companies.

It looks more like a significant economic slowdown rather than a bump in the road. Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal wondered whether the Q1 growth rate of 0.2% was too optimistic:

U.S. economic growth for the first quarter was already looking weak. Now it’s looking even worse.

Trade figures released by the Commerce Department on Wednesday suggest gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic output, contracted in the first three months of the year.

Last week, Commerce said GDP grew at a paltry 0.2% seasonally adjusted annual rate from January to March. Those preliminary figures were based on some incomplete data, including estimated March trade numbers. The government agency had assumed a deficit of roughly $45 billion.

Instead, the U.S. trade deficit expanded to $51.37 billion, a more than 43% jump from the prior month and the biggest such increase nearly two decades.

A number of firms looking at the big jump in the trade gap began revising their estimates of Q1, with most of them pushing it into negative territory. Morgan Stanley’s analyst picked -0.4% as the low-end estimate, as did those at BNP Paribas and RBS Securities. Deutsche Bank put it at -0.5%, while Capital Economics looks for a more “modest” drop to -0.3%.

The official BLS numbers will come out on Friday. March’s jobs report was a flop, and if April’s isn’t much better, then Zandi’s optimism will seem like whistling past the graveyard. And most of the time (although not always), ADP comes in well above the BLS — just as they did in March.