US PRIVATE employers added a surprisingly high 297,000 jobs in December, the biggest increase since at least 2001, a new report by ADP Employer Services report has shown.
The figure is far higher than the median estimate of 100,000 private-sector jobs reported by economists surveyed by Reuters, and is also significantly above November's revised figure of 92,000 jobs gained.
November's level was revised down from an original gain of 93,000.
The dollar extended gains against the yen and euro after the news, while US stock index futures pared losses after the data and US Treasury prices fell.
"We've been building towards a big number ... That's pointing to a big payroll number ahead, and I think we'll get a big healthy report on Friday," said Andrew Wilkinson, senior market analyst at Interactive Brokers Group in Greenwich, Connecticut.
The ADP figures come ahead of the US government's more comprehensive labour market report due for publication on Friday, which will include both public and private sector employment.
That report is expected to show a rise in overall nonfarm payrolls of 140,000 in December, based on a Reuters poll of analysts, but a rise in private payrolls of 145,000.
Economists often use the ADP report to fine-tune their forecasts for the payrolls numbers, though it is not always accurate in predicting the outcome.
The ADP report is jointly developed with Macroeconomic Advisers LLC.