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Private Survey Shows Steady Job Gains In February

By CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ A private survey shows U.S. businesses added a solid number of jobs in February, indicating higher taxes and looming government spending cuts have yet to slow hiring.

Employers added 198,000 jobs in February, according to data released Wednesday by payroll processor ADP. And the survey revised January's hiring figures to show companies added 215,000 jobs that month, 23,000 more than what had initially been reported.

The figure suggests that the government's February jobs report, to be issued Friday, may come in above economists' forecasts. Analysts expect it will show the economy added 152,000 jobs and the unemployment rate dipped to 7.8 percent from 7.9 percent in January.

Joseph LaVorgna, chief U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank, boosted his forecast to 180,000 jobs, up from 125,000, in response to the ADP report.

Still, other economists remained cautious. Many think huge snowstorm that shut down several northeastern states last month may drag on overall job gains.

The ADP report is derived from actual payroll data and tracks total nonfarm private employment each month. It doesn't include government jobs, which have steadily declined for the past three years. In the past four months, ADP's data has diverged from the government's estimate of private sector jobs by about 30,000.

Still, February's ADP report shows private employers kept adding jobs in Februray, even after taxes increased and the government moved closer to across-the-board spending cuts.

"Despite the ongoing fiscal uncertainty and the payroll tax hike, the recovery is picking up momentum," Paul Ashworth, an economist at Capital Economics, said in a note to clients.

Social Security taxes rose 2 percentage points Jan. 1 as part of a deal between the White House and Congress to avert larger tax increases. And about $85 billion in spending cuts took effect March 1, which economists expect will lower growth in the summer and fall.

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