Wall Street stocks fell at the opening of trading Wednesday as weak economic reports stoked anxiety about the job market.
The Dow Jones industrial average dropped about 280 points, erasing more than a quarter of the stock market's gains for the year.
According to payroll processor ADP, private employers added just 38,000 jobs in May -- down from 177,000 in April. The May figure was the weakest result since September 2010.
"As far as we can tell, employers have hugely overreacted to the surge in oil prices, which has slowed but not killed consumption," said Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist for High Frequency Economics.
The dismal data prompted Shepherdson to cut his forecast of overall job growth in May from 175,000 jobs to 75,000 jobs.
Although the ADP report has been wrong before, the analysis may offer a preview of Friday's more comprehensive job report from the U.S. Labor Department.