US businesses slowed the pace of hiring in January after a December surge, payrolls firm ADP said Wednesday in a closely watched report ahead of the government\'s jobs data. The US private sector added a net 170,000 jobs in January after a downwardly revised 292,000 in December, ADP said. The January gain was below the 200,000 figure expected by most analysts. \"The big picture painted by the ADP report is that private sector employment expanded at a fairly solid rate driven once again by small and medium-sized businesses,\" said RDQ Economics analysts. They noted ADP employment had expanded for 24 consecutive months, with the private sector adding 2.9 million jobs. The slowdown in hiring was in line with expectations for Friday\'s official January labor report. The average analyst estimate is for the unemployment rate to remain unchanged at 8.5 percent, with the net number of jobs added to the economy falling to 155,000 from 200,000 in December. Analysts project the private sector boosted the number of positions by 168,000 in January, compared with 212,000 the previous month.