Superstorm Sandy took a bite out of businesses hiring in November, according to a closely watched reading that suggests a weak Labor Department jobs report could be coming this Friday.
Payroll processing firm ADP reported that private-sector employers added 118,000 jobs in the month, down from the 157,000 jobs added by businesses the previous month.
"Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc on the job market in November, slicing an estimated 86,000 jobs from payrolls," said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics. "The manufacturing, retailing, leisure and hospitality, and temporary help industries were hit particularly hard by the storm."
Besides the hit from Sandy, the uncertainty about looming cuts in federal spending and rise in tax rates known as the fiscal cliff may also be keeping some employers from adding staff.
Before the storm and fiscal cliff negotiations, there had been signs that hiring was picking up, helped by a rebound in home building and the housing market. The ADP report showed 23,000 jobs added in construction in the month.
But since the storm the number of unemployed filing for jobless benefits has shot higher.
A survey of economists by CNNMoney forecasts that the Labor Department's November jobs report on Friday will show a 77,000 increase in total payrolls, down from the 171,000 jobs added in October. The unemployment rate is expected to creep up to 8 percent from 7.9 percent in the most recent reading.