Private employers added 218,000 jobs, down from 281,000 in June, payroll provider ADP said Wednesday. It was the fourth straight month of job gains above 200,000, a healthy pace that usually is enough to lower the unemployment rate.
The figures suggest that the government's jobs report, to be released Friday, will also show a solid increase. But the ADP numbers cover only private businesses and often diverge from the government's more comprehensive report.
Economists forecast that the government's report will show that 225,000 jobs were added in July, while the unemployment rate stayed at 6.1 percent, according to a survey by FactSet.
"It feels to me like the job market is humming," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, which helps compile the report.
The job gains were mostly broad-based. Construction added 12,000 positions, most of which likely pay mid-level wages. Retail, shipping and utilities gained 52,000 and professional and business services, which mostly include higher-paying jobs, gained 61,000.
Manufacturing, however, added just 3,000 jobs, according to ADP.
A separate government report Wednesday showed the economy grew at a rapid 4 percent annual pace in the April-June quarter. That followed a sharp 2.1 percent contraction in the first three months of the year. But the second half of 2013 was also revised higher to show growth at a 4 percent annual pace.
The better growth figures should support continued strong hiring, Zandi said.
"This feels a lot more consistent with the jobs numbers and more supportive of the idea that the economy is gaining traction," he said.