Businesses add 200,000 jobs in March as U.S. labor market keeps improving

Georgia Department of Labor services specialist Eric Frasier, left, helps a woman with a job search at an unemployment office in Atlanta on March 3.

Georgia Department of Labor services specialist Eric Frasier, left, helps a woman with a job search at an unemployment office in Atlanta on March 3.

(David Goldman / Associated Press)

Businesses added a solid 200,000 net jobs this month, according to a closely watched private survey released Wednesday, as the U.S. labor market continued to strengthen even as overall economic growth appears to be slowing.

The job growth in the report from payroll firm Automatic Data Processing was a bit slower than in February, which was revised down to 205,000 from an initial estimate of 214,000.

But the March figure was in line with analyst expectations and indicates the labor market has not been hurt by financial market turbulence early this year or by fears of a slowing global economy.

“The job market continues on its amazing streak.” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, which assists ADP in preparing the monthly report.


“The March job gain of 200,000 is consistent with average monthly job growth of the past more than four years,” he said. “All indications are that the job machine will remain in high gear.”

Trade, transportation and utility companies increased their combined payrolls by 42,000 jobs in March, well above the 24,000 added the previous month, ADP said.

Manufacturers, who have been hurt by the rising value of the dollar, rebounded this month to add 3,000 net jobs after shedding 9,000 in February.

But hiring in the construction industry declined, with companies adding 17,000 net jobs, down from 24,000 in February.

The overall picture in the report, which is based on ADP’s payroll data, was of a labor market that continues to improve even as lackluster consumer spending has caused economists to forecast weak economic growth of less than 1% in the first three months of the year.

Analysts expect the Labor Department to report Friday that the U.S. economy -- private and public sector -- added 210,000 net jobs this month. That would be down from a strong 242,000 figure in February but still push the nation closer toward what the Federal Reserve considers to be full employment.

The unemployment rate in March is forecast to have held steady at 4.9%, matching an eight-year low.

In a speech Tuesday, Fed Chairwoman Janet L. Yellen said central bank policymakers expect the labor market to continue to strengthen.


A tighter job market should push up wages, which have grown at a weak pace during the recovery. But the sluggish wage growth and low oil prices have kept inflation low.

Yellen cited inflation as well as concerns about the global economy as reasons Fed policymakers would “proceed cautiously” in deciding when to enact another increase in a key short-term interest rate.

Yellen’s comments appeared to rule out a hike in the federal funds rate at the central bank’s meeting this month.

Charles Evans, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and a nonvoting member of the policymaking committee, said Wednesday he did not anticipate a hike this month because inflation remains low.


“I would say the threshold for having confidence that inflation is ... sustainably moving up toward our 2% inflation target is pretty high,” Evans told CNBC TV. “So, I’d be surprised if we met that condition, myself, in April.”

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