WASHINGTON -- Hiring by the U.S. private sector edged higher in January to an estimated 192,000 net new jobs, compared to 185,000 the previous month, payrolls firm ADP said Wednesday.

Gains were strongest in the services sector and trade and transportation industry, while manufacturing rolls fell by 3,000, the ADP report said.

Private sector hiring has grown steadily from midyear 2012 when the monthly pace was closer to 100,000; the past three months averaged 183,000.

"The job market is slowly, but steadily, improving," said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics, which helps ADP compile the data.

"Construction is finally kicking into gear and more than offsetting the weakness in manufacturing."

"The recent gains may be overstating any improvement, particularly in the context of recent revivals in growth at the start of the past three years, but the gains are encouraging nonetheless."

On Friday the government releases the official job creation and unemployment estimates for January, which are expected to show little if any improvement from December, when 155,000 net new jobs were created and the jobless rate held at 7.8 percent.

But a recent fall in weekly numbers on new unemployment insurance claims, a sign of the pace of layoffs, could be a good sign for job creation, some analysts say.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013