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US job creation surges in January, report says

WASHINGTON — U.S. businesses continued to hire at a healthy pace in January, a sign the economy is off to a solid start for the year.

Payroll processor ADP said Wednesday that companies added 234,000 jobs, led by big gains at service organizations such as hotels, restaurants, retail stores, schools and health care operators.

Job gains at that pace are easily enough to drive down an already-low unemployment rate over time. The rate has remained at 4.1 percent for the past three months. Businesses are optimistic about the economy, particularly after the President Donald Trump’s tax overhaul was approved last month.

Companies have been steadily adding jobs for the past eight years, after the economy fell into a steep recession in 2008. The recovery from that downturn is now the second longest in U.S. history.

“At this point in the cycle, it’s really impressive to still be generating this many jobs,” Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, said. Moody’s compiles the ADP data.

Still, ADP’s report and government figures frequently diverge. In December, ADP’s report showed employers added 242,000 jobs. But government data indicated just 148,000 jobs were added.

On Friday, the government’s employment report for January will likely show a gain of 175,000 jobs, economists forecast, according to a survey by FactSet, a data provider. That’s still enough to lower the jobless rate over time.

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