Nonfarm payrolls probably increased by 200,000, the largest gain in
four months, according to a Reuters poll of economists. Hiring
advanced by 175,000 jobs in February.
The unemployment rate is expected to have dropped one-tenth of a
percentage point to 6.6 percent.
The anticipated gain in employment would take job growth back near
the 204,000 monthly average that prevailed through the first 11
months of 2013.
"It proves that some of the economy's struggles in the first quarter
were temporary," said Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody's
Analytics in West Chester, Pennsylvania. "With the weather warming
up it seems the job market is improving too."
The Labor Department will release its monthly jobs report, which is
closely watched by financial markets around the globe, on Friday at
8:30 a.m. (1230 GMT).
An unusually cold and snowy winter began to slam the economy in
December and has weighed heavily on first-quarter growth. Growth has
also been crimped by an effort by businesses to work through a glut
of unsold goods, the expiration of long-term unemployment benefits
and cuts to food stamps.
A strong pace of job growth in March could heighten the debate on
the timing of the Federal Reserve's first interest rate increase.
The U.S. central bank is expected to wrap up a bond-buying stimulus
program by the end of the year, but hold off on raising rates until
It cut benchmark overnight lending rates to a historic low of zero
to 0.25 percent in December 2008 and pledged to keep them low while
it nursed the economy back to health.
CLOSE TO RECOUPING JOBS LOSSES
If forecasts are correct, last month's gains would leave employment
465,000 jobs below its pre-recession peak, ground that likely could
be made up in just a few more months.
But the ranks of the long-term unemployed remain stubbornly high and
many Americans can find only part-time work, factors that Fed Chair
Janet Yellen said on Monday argued for continued Fed support for the
[to top of second column]
"There is still a lot of labor market slack," said Gus Faucher,
senior economist at PNC Financial Services Group. "Even as the
unemployment rate falls toward 6 percent, the Fed is likely to hold
off on interest rate hikes until there is a better sense that a lot
of that slack has been absorbed."
After a sharp decline last year that helped drive down the
jobless rate, the labor force has been holding steady despite
expectations some of the more than one million long-term unemployed
whose benefits expired at the end of 2013 could stop searching for
work. If they did, they would no longer be considered as unemployed
and in the labor market.
"So far there hasn't been an apparent impact on labor force
participation," said Ted Wieseman, an economist at Morgan Stanley in
New York. "If there has, it's been more than offset by better job
prospects drawing other discouraged workers back into the labor
The private sector is expected to account for all the employment
gains in March, with government payrolls likely to have dropped by
Manufacturing employment is expected to have risen 7,000 after
increasing 6,000 in February. Factory job growth has slowed since
surging in November. Construction payrolls are expected to post a
third straight month of gains.
Average hourly earnings probably rose 0.2 percent in March after
rising 0.4 percent the prior month, the poll found, while the length
of the workweek likely increased to an average of 34.4 hours from
34.2 hours in February — another bullish sign.
(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; editing by Dan Grebler)
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