(CN) - Employers across the U.S. and across a range of business sectors added 298,000 jobs in February -- the largest number of new jobs added to the economy in three years, payroll processor ADP said Wednesday.
The robust ADP numbers suggest hiring is accelerating. The numbers climbed from 261,000 new jobs added by U.S. employers in January.
January and February's job gains are above last year's average of about 185,000 per month.
The ADP covers only private businesses and often diverges from official figures. Economists forecast that the government's jobs report, due Friday, will show an increase of 186,000, according to data provider FactSet.
But after ADP changed its methodology late last year, it's numbers have proven to be closer to government estimates, and economists on Wednesday revised their forecast upward in advance of Friday's job report from the Labor Department.
Ted Wieseman, an economist at Morgan Stanley, told the Associated Press he now expects job gains of 250,000, up from 200,000.
The ADP numbers, of course, aren't the only indicator of a strong job market. Last week the federal government reported the number of people seeking unemployment benefits has fallen to a 44-year low.
Charts courtesy ADP.