Private sector employers shed 84,000 jobs last month, according to monthly employment figures from payroll giant ADP, but the service sector gained jobs, especially at small businesses.

Small businesses with less than 50 employees shed 25,000 jobs in December, but the service-providing sector actually gained 11,000 jobs. However, those gains were offset by a loss of 36,000 jobs at goods-producing small businesses.

Like small businesses, midsized businesses with between 50 and 499 employees slashed 25,000 jobs in December, while large businesses with 500 or more employees axed 34,000 jobs. However, the service-providing sector among businesses of all sizes gained 12,000 jobs (mostly coming from the 11,000 added at small businesses), but those gains were more than offset by the 96,000 jobs lost in the goods-producing sector.

Within specific industries, employment in the financial services sector dropped by 12,000, while construction employment dropped by 52,000 and manufacturing employment by 43,000.

Despite the overall job losses, the gains in the service sector provided some encouraging news. “Small business employment within the service-providing sector increased by 11,000 during December,” said Joel Prakken, chairman of Macroeconomic Advisers, which compiles the report for ADP. “If recent trends continue, private employment will begin rising within the next few months.”

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