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Private-sector employment falls by 20,000 in February, report says

March 3, 2010 | 10:51 am

Private, nonfarm employment fell by 20,000 last month, according to another jobs report released Wednesday ahead of official government data.

The drop was the smallest decline since employment began tumbling in February 2008, according to payroll company Automatic Data Processing Inc., which sponsored the report. Economic consulting firm Macroeconomic Advisers conducted the research.

Service sector employment rose 17,000 from January to February. The goods-producing sector shed 37,000 workers, though manufacturing saw a 3,000-job boost, the first increase since the start of 2008.

Large businesses with 500 or more employees ended up with 10,000 fewer jobs, while small companies with fewer than 50 workers cut 18,000 jobs. Medium-sized firms, however, added 8,000 jobs in the first upswing since January 2008.

The heavy storms on the East Coast last month had little effect on the report because of the company’s methodology. But the severe weather is expected to be a major depressant on the government’s data, which are due out Friday.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also counts government workers, but the report from Roseland, N.J.-based Automatic Data looks only at private-sector positions. The company's and the government's numbers are based on a sample size extrapolated to represent the entire workforce.

-- Tiffany Hsu