WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. businesses boosted hiring in April, according to a private survey, a sign the economy may improve after a sluggish start this year.
Payroll processer ADP said Wednesday that private employers added 220,000 jobs in April, the most since November and up from 209,000 in March.
The figures suggest that the government's jobs report for April, to be released Friday, could show a healthy gain. Economists forecast that report will show employers added 210,000 jobs in April, according to a survey by FactSet. That would be the most in five months.
A strong increase of 200,000 or more jobs would give the economy a much-needed boost after harsh winter snowstorms kept shoppers indoors and dragged down home and car sales. The economy barely expanded in the first three months of this year, according to a separate report Wednesday. The Commerce Department said growth was just 0.1 percent at an annual rate in the first quarter, much lower than the fourth quarter's 2.6 percent pace.
More hiring would put more money in Americans' pockets, potentially boosting spending and growth. Most economists expect growth to accelerate in the spring and summer, as the weather improves and hiring picks up.
The ADP report says most of the hiring occurred in service industries such as retail, transportation, and professional services. Construction firms added 19,000 jobs, a healthy gain. Manufacturing added just 1,000.
Hiring was also widespread among small, medium-sized and larger companies.
The step-up in hiring comes after job gains faltered over the winter. Employers added only 84,000 jobs in December and 144,000 in January. Hiring then improved to 197,000 in February and 192,000 last month.
There are other signs the job market is getting better. The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid has fallen to the lowest level since the recession, a sign companies are laying off fewer workers.
The ADP numbers cover only private businesses and often diverge from the government's more comprehensive report. Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, said that ADP's figures have been off by about 40,000, on average, from the government's report each month for the past 18 months. Moody's calculates the figures for ADP.