NEW YORK U.S. private employers added 139,000 jobs in February, shy of economists' expectations, and gains in the previous month were revised lower, a report by a payrolls processor showed on Wednesday.
Economists surveyed by Reuters had forecast the ADP National Employment Report would show a gain of 160,000 jobs.
The data once again is clouded by harsh winter weather, which has made it hard for economists and investors to measure the strength of the U.S. economy.
"As you head to Friday's payroll report, you are looking at another month of weather effect," said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James in St. Petersburg, Florida.
"It still suggests things are improving but it's hard to gauge the exact strength of the job market. Things should look less distorted in March and April. Spring is make or break time for (the) economy."
Private payrolls for January were revised down to a gain of 127,000 from the previously reported 175,000.
Stock index futures pared slight gains after the data, while U.S. Treasury yields fell. The U.S. dollar slipped against the euro and yen.
The ADP figures come ahead of the government's much more comprehensive labor market report on Friday, which includes both public and private sector employment.
The government report is expected to show a gain in overall nonfarm payrolls of 150,000 for last month, based on a Reuters poll of analysts, and a rise in private payrolls of 154,000.
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.
The report is jointly developed with Moody's Analytics.
(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos, additional reporting by Richard Leong; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)