Surpassing expectations, the US private sector recorded strong job growth in July, according to data released today.

Companies added 179,000 new jobs, up 1.7% from June's revised total of 176,000, according to the payroll services firm ADP.

Analysts had expected new hires to amount to 4% fewer than the 172,000 total originally announced in June.

The ADP figures often do not match those released by the US Labor Department, which is due to publish its own tally of monthly job creation on Friday.

The new numbers also come as recent economic data continue to make it harder for policy makers in Washington to find the signal in the noise, causing them to err on the side of caution.

Second-quarter GDP growth stood at a modest 1.2%, far lower than expectations and making the current economic recovery one of the slowest in decades, according to Commerce Department figures released Friday.

The survey was taken from a data sample derived from payrolls at ADP, which represents clients employing 24 million US workers.

The strongest gains were recorded in companies employing between 50 and 499 people. Employers in the construction and goods-producing sectors each saw net declines of 6,000 workers.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, which helped produce the survey, said that employers were having trouble filling open positions as the economy approached full employment.

"The data look marginally stronger than consensus expectations for the [Labor Department] report on Friday," said Jim O'Sullivan, chief US economist at High Frequency Economics, noting that ADP data were "far from infallible."

"The ADP data continue to suggest that the trend in employment growth remains fairly strong - strong enough to keep the unemployment rate trending down," said Mr O'Sullivan.