WASHINGTON — Companies unexpectedly cut jobs in September, data from a private report based on payrolls showed Wednesday. Employment decreased by 39,000, the biggest drop since January, after a revised 10,000 rise in August, according to figures from ADP Employer Services.
A loss of jobs raises the risk that consumer spending, the largest part of the economy, will retrench and halt the recovery. A Labor Department report in two days will show companies added 75,000 workers last month, economists project.
"It's more evidence of a lousy labor market," said Joshua Shapiro, chief U.S. economist at Maria Fiorini Ramirez in New York. "Here we are, 18 months into a recovery and we're not doing much on the job front. Until we digest the excesses built up over decades, you're not going to see sustained gains in jobs or the overall economy."
Over the previous six reports, ADP's initial figures were closest to the Labor Department's first estimate of private payrolls in May, when it overestimated the gain in jobs by 14,000. Its gain estimate was least accurate in April, off by 199,000.
ADP's initial August estimate showed a 10,000 drop in private employment compared with the government's estimate of a 67,000 increase. The ADP report is based on data from about 340,000 businesses with more than 21 million workers on payrolls.
"It's going to be a while before employment really perks up" said Joel Prakken, chairman of St. Louis-based Macroeconomic Advisers, which produces the figures with ADP.
High unemployment, public debt and fragile banking systems pose risks to global prosperity, according to a report Wednesday from the International Monetary Fund, which urged policymakers to take bolder steps to assure a sustained recovery.
Economists at Goldman Sachs said the economy will be "fairly bad" or "very bad" over the next six to nine months.
"We see two main scenarios," analysts led by Jan Hatzius, the New York-based chief U.S. economist at the company, wrote in an e-mail to clients dated Tuesday. "A fairly bad one in which the economy grows at a 1 1/2 percent to 2 percent rate through the middle of next year and the unemployment rate rises moderately to 10 percent, and a very bad one in which the economy returns to an outright recession."
Hatzius put the odds of a renewed recession at 25 to 30 percent, up from 15 to 20 percent at the start of the year.