Companies took on 200,000 workers in March, adding to evidence of a firming labor market, according to a private report based on payrolls.
The increase in employment followed a revised 205,000 gain the prior month, according to figures Wednesday from the Roseland, New Jersey-based ADP Research Institute. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey called for a 195,000 March advance.
Persistent hiring will be critical in sparking bigger gains in the household spending that makes up the bulk of a U.S. economy beset by struggling overseas demand. Labor Department data on Friday may show private payrolls rose by almost 200,000 workers in March, compared with an average 221,000 monthly gain in 2015.
“The job market continues on its amazing streak,” Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics Inc., said in a statement. Moody’s produces the figures with ADP. “The only industry reducing payrolls is energy, as has been the case for over a year. All indications are that the job machine will remain in high gear.”
Estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from gains of 150,000 to 225,000 after a previously reported February increase of 214,000.
Goods-producing industries, which include manufacturers and construction companies, increased headcount by 9,000 in March, according to Wednesday’s report. Employment in construction rose by 17,000, while factories added 3,000 jobs. Trade, transportation and utilities added 42,000 workers, the most since June, ADP said. Payrolls at service providers advanced by 191,000.
Companies employing more than 500 or more workers added 39,000 jobs. Medium-sized businesses, with 50 to 499 employees, took on 75,000 and the smallest companies increased payrolls by 86,000, the report showed.
The ADP report is based on data from businesses with almost 24 million workers on their combined payrolls.
The job market has remained a bright spot for a U.S. economy battling headwinds from dollar appreciation last year, a weaker energy sector and limited overseas growth.
Employers, including government agencies, added 242,000 workers in February compared with an average 229,000 a month in 2015. Applications for jobless benefits have been below 300,000 for 55 straight weeks, the longest such stretch since 1973, and a level that economists say is consistent with a healthy labor market.
Federal Reserve policy makers meeting earlier this month in Washington cited “additional strengthening of the labor market” even as they held off on raising the benchmark interest rate from its range of 0.25 percent to 0.5 percent.
The central bankers also marked down forecasts for how high interest rates will rise this year, pointing to risks from weaker global growth and financial-market turmoil.