US private employers added a bigger than expected 238,000 jobs in December, the strongest increase in 13 months, a report by a payrolls processor showed today.

Economists surveyed by Reuters had forecast the ADP National Employment Report would show a gain of 200,000 jobs, with estimates ranging from a low of 170,000 to a high of 240,000.

"We’re now going to start to see an economic recovery more typical of the economic recoveries we’ve seen historically," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, which jointly develops the report with ADP.

"It feels like the jobs market has kicked into a higher gear," he added.

November's increase in jobs was revised to 229,000 from the initially reported 215,000. With the December report, the three-month moving average for the ADP report is above 224,000, the highest since March 2012.

The ADP report comes two days ahead of the US government’s nonfarm payroll report, a measure of the labour market that is more comprehensive and includes both public and private sector employment. 

Analysts are looking for 196,000 jobs to have been added in December, and a rise in private payrolls of 195,000. Both numbers would represent slight declines from November.

Separately, applications for US home mortgages rose 2.6%in the latest week, rebounding from a 13-year low set at the end of last year, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. 

Recent data has pointed to an acceleration in economic conditions. The Commerce Department said yesterday the November US trade deficit was the smallest in four years as exports hit a record high and weak oil prices restrained import growth.