U.S. private employers added 169,000 jobs last month, the fewest since January 2014 and far below economists' expectations, a report by a payrolls processor showed on Wednesday.
Economists surveyed by Reuters had forecast the ADP National Employment Report would show a gain of 200,000 jobs.
March's private payrolls were revised down to an increase of 175,000 jobs from the previously reported 189,000.
The report is jointly developed with Moody's Analytics.
The ADP figures come ahead of the U.S. Labor Department's more comprehensive non-farm payrolls report on Friday, which includes both public and private-sector employment.
Economists polled by Reuters are looking for total U.S. employment to have grown by 224,000 jobs in April, up sharply from 126,000 in March. The unemployment rate is seen moving to 5.4% from 5.5%.