America's private companies added 204,000 new jobs in August, the payroll processing company ADP reported Thursday. That's less than the 220,000 economists had predicted, and July's number was revised down by 6,000 to 212,000. That gives the Federal Reserve yet another reason to hold off raising interest rates for as long as it can in 2015, which should bolster stock prices.
Aside from the Fed's maneuvers, data on trade and car sales are more than enough to suggest the economic recovery didn't step backward in August. Auto manufacturers reported that August sales hit an annual rate of 17.5 million, their fastest pace since before the recession, and enough to keep Ford (F) , General Motors (GM) and others in the money. The narrower trade deficit suggests growth is in the same 3% a year range we've been hearing. As before, pretty much the only weak spot is in housing.
The notable thing is that the job growth is broad-based now, said Zandi, whose firm conducts the ADP survey. Instead of seeing job growth concentrated in leisure and hospitality companies such as Marriott (MAR) or Starwood (HOT) , as was happening early in the recovery, the hiring has spread to middle-wage jobs at manufacturers such as Boeing (BA) and even construction companies such as D.R. Horton (DHI) . Construction added 15,000 jobs last month, and manufacturing added 23,000.
The light ADP number may mute expectations for Friday's unemployment report from the Labor Department. Economists have been expecting the government to say the economy added 230,000 jobs and that the unemployment rate dropped to 6.1% from 6.2% in July.
But the basic picture is still the same. Anything more than 175,000 and less than 275,000 really won't change the near-term outlook very much.
At the time of publication, the author had no positions in stocks mentioned.
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