Private employers unexpectedly cut 39,000 jobs in September after adding an upwardly revised 10,000 jobs in August, a report by a payrolls processor showed on Wednesday.
The ADP Employer Services report had been expected to show the private sector added 24,000 jobs in September, according to the median of estimates from 38 economists surveyed by Reuters.
The August figure was originally reported as a loss of 10,000.
The ADP report, jointly developed with Macroeconomic Advisers LLC, come ahead of the government's much more comprehensive labor market report on Friday, which includes both public and private sector employment. U.S. stock index futures cut their gains after the release, while the U.S. dollar lost ground. U.S. Treasury bonds climbed.
Speaking to a teleconference of journalists, Macroeconomic Advisers chairman Joel Prakken said there was a good chance Friday's nonfarm payrolls number is going to be "pretty soft" as temporary positions that the government created for the Census continue to drop off.
Prakken also said he expects "quite modest" growth in employment through the end of the year and into early next year.
"It wouldn't surprise me at all if the unemployment rate ticks up from the most recently reported 9.6 percent to something like 9.8 percent or even 9.9 percent by the end of the year," Prakken said.
Friday's report is expected to show overall nonfarm payrolls were unchanged in September, based on a Reuters poll of analysts. Private payrolls, however, are expected to increase by 75,000. The unemployment rate is forecast to edge up to 9.7 percent.
Economists often refer to the ADP report to fine-tune their expectations for the payrolls numbers, though it is not always accurate in predicting the outcome.
(Reporting by Leah Schnurr, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)