Job growth in the US private sector sputtered in March, to below the 200,000 level for the first time in more than a year, payrolls firm ADP said Wednesday.
Businesses increased nonfarm payrolls by 189,000 jobs in March, following much stronger job growth of 214,000 in February, ADP said.
The slowdown in job growth was unexpected after months of solid overall job growth and a falling unemployment rate, which hit 5.5 percent in February.
On average, analysts expected the pace of job growth would accelerate to 225,000 in March.
The last time the ADP report fell below 200,000 was January 2014.
"Job growth took a step back in March. The fallout from the collapse in oil prices and surge in value of the dollar is hitting the job market," said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics, which helps to compile the data.
"Despite the slowdown, underlying job growth remains strong enough to reduce labor market slack," he said.
On Friday the US Labor Department reports on the private and public sector jobs market in March.
Analysts expect the official report to show a slowdown in jobs growth as well, with the economy adding 250,000 nonfarm payrolls after 288,000 in February, and the jobless rate remaining unchanged at 5.5 percent.
"ADP is not a reliable indicator of private payrolls. Even after revisions, it has substantially undershot the official number in three of the past four months, by an average of 83,000," said Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics.
The economist said he was sticking to his March jobs growth estimate of 280,000 for Friday.