The private sector added just 27,000 jobs in May — the fewest since the economic expansion began — according to the ADP employment report, which tracks the employers of about 24 million workers. The number was way below economists' expectations of 173,000 job gains and a steep drop-off from April's 275,000 increase in jobs.

What's happening: Small businesses — which ADP counts as companies that employ up to 49 people — saw the steepest decline in employment, with payrolls dropping by 52,000, continuing a pattern of pain for smaller companies.

Why it matters: "Smaller firms are more likely to accelerate or slow their hiring decisions in response to economic developments," Luke Tilley, chief economist at Wilmington Trust, tells Axios.

  • "A 25-person company is far more likely to pause than a large corporation with a more bureaucratic structure," Tilley says.
  • Small businesses are also struggling to fill open positions and don't have the resources to compete with larger firms for talent, Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, tells Axios.

What to watch: The ADP report is seen as a barometer of the official government release that comes later in the week, but it's not perfect. The figures have "under- and overshot the preliminary official private-payroll tally by an average of 83,000 jobs," according to the WSJ.

  • Zandi told reporters that Friday’s jobs report — which, unlike the ADP report, includes government workers — might be more “juiced up” relative to the ADP number as the government ramps up hiring for the 2020 Census.

Go deeper

The apocalypse scenario

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Democratic lawyers are preparing to challenge any effort by President Trump to swap electors chosen by voters with electors selected by Republican-controlled legislatures. One state of particular concern: Pennsylvania, where the GOP controls the state house.

Why it matters: Trump's refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, together with a widely circulated article in The Atlantic about how bad the worst-case scenarios could get, is drawing new attention to the brutal fights that could jeopardize a final outcome.

Federal judge rules Trump administration can't end census early

Census workers outside Lincoln Center in New York. Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

A federal judge ruled late Thursday that the Trump administration could not end the 2020 census a month early.

Why it matters: The decision states that an early end — on Sept. 30, instead of Oct. 31 — would likely produce inaccuracies and thus impact political representation and government funding around the country.

Who Biden might put on the Supreme Court

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

In the wake of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death, Democrats are compiling lists of Black women they want Joe Biden to consider for the bench if he's elected — with an eye toward people from outside the traditional legal establishment.

Why it matters: Supreme Court appointments are one of the most consequential parts of any president's legacy, and a President Biden would need to find picks who could try to wrangle liberal victories from a solid conservative majority.

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