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ADP: Companies hired 257,000 workers last month

American companies added 257,000 workers to their payrolls in December, far exceeding expert forecasts, ADP Research Institute reported on Wednesday.

Progress in the U.S. employment picture could foster quicker wage growth in the months ahead, bolstering consumer spending. Average hourly pay increased less than 3 percent in 2015, and lower energy costs failed to produce as robust a holiday shopping season as some analysts had anticipated.

The ADP data, which topped consensus forecasts of 198,000 payroll gains last month, come two days before the Labor Department releases its monthly jobs report. Economists note that ADP's employment figures often differ significantly from the government's official tally.

The bulk of the hiring came in professional/business services, where companies added 66,000 workers, ADP said. By sector, 234,000 of the overall job additions came in the service-providing sector.

"Manufacturing added just 2,000 but that was better than expected considering the challenges that group is facing," Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at the Lindsey Group, sad in a note. "[ADP] said the only industry losing jobs is energy."

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