Job growth hit an 18-month low in March amid growing signs that the hiring boom may be running out of steam, according to a report Wednesday from ADP and Moody's Analytics
"The job market is weakening, with employment gains slowing significantly across most industries and company sizes," Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, said in a statement. "Businesses are hiring cautiously as the economy is struggling with fading fiscal stimulus, trade uncertainty, and the lagged impact of Fed tightening. If employment growth is weakening much further, unemployment will begin to rise. "
All of the gains came from services, which increased by 135,000, while goods-producing industries lost 6,000 positions.
On the plus side, education and health services saw an increase of 56,000 while professional and business services added 41,000. Leisure and hospitality grew by 13,000 while information services increased by
The disappointing number comes as Wall Street is watching the jobs market closely for signs of an economic slowdown The nonfarm payrolls count of the Labor Department is released Friday , with economists looking for growth of 175,000 after February's weak 20,000 reading
Zandi, who said he expects the government count to be closer to 140,000, attributed much of the job issues to the weakening of business sentiment fueled in part by the US-China trade dispute
"The widespread expectation is that the Trump administration and the Chinese will come to terms here and get a deal and this trade war will end. But until it does, the uncertainty created by the conflict is weighing heavily on the collective psyche, "Zandi said in a conference call.
ADP and the government counts often conflict, as evidenced by the 177,000 disparity in the February total  Small businesses, which have been a major growth engine for hiring, struggled in March with only 6,000 net new hires, according to the ADP / Moody's report. The biggest gains game from firms with between 50 and 499 employees, which grew by 63,000 , while large companies added 60,000.