Payroll company ADP said Wednesday that employers added just 159,000 jobs in August and 161,000 in July, both slightly lower than the previous estimates.
The figures are taking on greater importance because they may be the only measure of the September job market for some time. The Labor Department will have to delay its September jobs report, scheduled for Friday, if the government shutdown goes past Wednesday.
The ADP report covers hiring only in the private sector. The figures often diverge from the government's more comprehensive jobs report.
The economy has been growing too slowly to rapidly boost hiring. It expanded at 1.8 percent annual rate in the first half of the year.
Growth is expected to have stayed weak in the July-September quarter at an annual rate of about 2 percent. Most economists forecast that growth will pick up in the final three months of the year to a rate of 2.5 percent or higher.
Hiring slowed over the summer. Employers have added 155,000 jobs a month in the four months through August. That's down from an average of 205,000 in the first four months of the year.