A Closer Look at Yesterday's ADP Employment Report

ADP has changed the format of their National Employment Report. It is no longer intended to serve as a forecast to the BLS' Non-Farm Payrolls Report and is an "independent measure of labor-market data". The report is now conducted using new methodology and is available from 2010 forward. Stay tuned as we create a new monthly update to follow this.

In yesterday morning's ADP employment report we got the September estimate of 568K nonfarm private employment jobs gained, an increase over August's revised 340K. The popular spin on this indicator is as a preview to the monthly jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Here is a snapshot of the monthly change in the ADP headline number since the company's earliest published data in April 2002. This is quite a volatile series, so we've plotted the monthly data points as dots along with a six-month moving average, which gives us a clearer sense of the trend.

ADP Nonfarm Private Employment

As we see in the chart above, the trend peaked 20 months before the last recession and went negative around the time that the NBER subsequently declared as the recession start. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought employment numbers down to levels we have never seen this century.

ADP also gives us a breakdown of Total Nonfarm Private Employment into two categories: Goods Producing and Services. Here is the same chart style illustrating the two. The US is predominantly a services economy, so it comes as no surprise that Services employment has shown stronger jobs growth. The trend in Goods Producing jobs went negative over a year before the last recession. It makes sense that service-producing employment has plummeted during the pandemic for a couple of reasons - our economy is mostly supported by service-producing jobs, and during the pandemic, those same services were brought to a halt.

Goods Producing versus Services

For a sense of the relative size of Services over Goods Producing employment, the next chart shows the percentage of Services Jobs across the entire series. The latest data point is below the record high.

Growth of Services Employment

There are a number of factors behind this trend. In addition to our increasing dependence on Services, Goods Production employment continues to be impacted by automation and offshoring.

For a better sense of the components of the two Goods Producing and Service Providing cohorts, here is a snapshot of the five select industries tracked by ADP. The two things to note here are the relative sizes of the industries and the relative trends. Note that Construction and Manufacturing are Production industries whereas the other three are Service Providing.

Select Industries

Another view of the relative trends of the five select industries is an overlay of the year-over-year comparison.

Select Industries YoY

For a longer-term perspective on the Goods Producing and Service Providing employment, see our monthly analysis, Secular Trends in Employment: Goods Producing Versus Services Providing, which is based on data from the Department of Labor's monthly jobs report reaching back to 1939.

Check back next month for another in-depth look into the latest ADP report.

Read more updates by Jen Nash