Employers are expected to have added 200,000 new jobs to their
payrolls last month after adding 175,000 in February, according to a
Reuters survey of economists. The jobless rate likely dipped
one-tenth of a percentage point, returning to the five-year low of
6.6 percent reached in January.
"It's looking like the economy is in the process of reaccelerating
after a very severe winter," said Robert Dye, chief economist at
Comerica in Dallas.
The Labor Department will release its monthly jobs tally on Friday
at 8:30 a.m. (1230 GMT)
An abnormally cold and snowy winter slammed the economy at the end
of 2013 and the beginning of this year. Growth was further undercut
by efforts by businesses to trim bloated inventories, the expiration
of benefits for the long-term unemployed and cuts to food stamps.
But data ranging from manufacturing and services sector activity to
automobile sales have signaled strength in the economy as the first
Should March hiring meet expectations, it would take job growth back
near the 204,000 monthly average that prevailed through the first 11
months of 2013, and leave the economy close to regaining the
positions lost during the recession.
A quickened pace of hiring could lead investors to bring forward
expectations for when the Federal Reserve will move overnight
interest rates up from near zero. Currently, bets are centered
around the middle of next year.
Fed Chair Janet Yellen has argued the central bank needs to maintain
a highly accommodative monetary policy for some time to come to
eliminate slack in the labor market.
She has pointed to an unusually large number of long-term
unemployed, who account for 37 percent of the 10.5 million out of
work. Many other Americans can only find part-time work or have
given up the job hunt.
"The labor market is moving in the right direction but not as
quickly as the Fed would like it," said Ryan Sweet, a senior
economist at Moody's Analytics in West Chester, Pennsylvania.
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MOVING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
The private sector likely accounted for all anticipated employment
gains in March, with government payrolls expected to have declined
by 5,000 jobs.
An eighth straight monthly increase in manufacturing employment is
expected. Factory job growth has, however, slowed since surging in
November. But with auto sales accelerating sharply in March, hiring
could pick up in the months ahead.
Construction payrolls are expected to post a third straight
increase, even though the housing market is struggling to climb out
of a soft patch.
Average hourly earnings probably rose 0.2 percent in March after
rising 0.4 percent the prior month, while the length of the workweek
likely increased to an average of 34.4 hours from 34.2 hours in
February — another bullish sign.
"The shift in the weather should provide a more meaningful boost to
the average workweek," said Daniel Silver, an economist at JPMorgan
in New York.
"The report will give us a better idea as to whether the pop in
average hourly earnings (in February) was related to the unusual
weather or representative of a more genuine firming in wage
(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; editing by Meredith Mazzilli)
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