Private-sector employers added 241,000 jobs in March

Private-sector employers added 241,000 jobs in March
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U.S. businesses kept up a solid hiring pace in March, adding 241,000 jobs as the labor market continues to tighten amid an expanding economy.

Private-sector companies have added at least 200,000 jobs to their payrolls each month since November, according to payroll processor ADP’s latest report released on Wednesday.

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“The job market is rip-roaring,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics who oversees the compilation of the ADP data.

“Monthly job growth remains firmly over 200,000, double the pace of labor force growth,” he said.

March’s job additions were slightly slower than the 246,000 pace in February, which was higher than the 235,000 initially reported.

PNC chief economist Gus Faucher said the job growth is consistent with his firm’s economic outlook that found 85 percent of businesses are optimistic, with about one-third expecting to hire over the next six months and half set to increase compensation.

Businesses have added 728,000 jobs in the first three months of the year, for a three-month average of more than 242,000.

Goods-producing industries, including construction adding 31,000 and manufacturing hiring 29,000, added a total of 65,000 in March, the biggest gain in the ADP report since February 2017, Faucher said.

Other strong performances were in professional services at 44,000 and with transportation and utilities hiring 40,000.

Mid-sized businesses added nearly half of all jobs in March, the best growth the segment has seen since the fall of 2014, Faucher said.

The government is set to release their March job numbers on Friday with expectations around 175,000 with the unemployment rate expected to fall to 4 percent from 4.1, a 17-year low.

That would be lower than the 313,000 first reported for February, which was the largest jump since June 2016.

Zandi warned that the government's numbers could come in lower because of the wave of snowstorms that hit the Northeast in fast succession in March. 

Growth in the first quarter may also come in softer, at around a 2 percent annual pace, which he said is belying the strength of the economy, he said. 

A looming question for the job market and the broader economy is whether a slew of tariffs by the Trump administration will hurt U.S. companies. 

Zandi expects that the trade battle with China, which has retaliated twice this week with tariffs on U.S. exports, won't cause much trouble for economic growth or jobs based on what has happened so far. 

"In the grand scheme of things the impact should be small," he said. 

Trade actions could cut one to two percentage points off gross domestic product, not insignificant he said, but not huge if growth reaches a 3 percent pace next year, he said. 

"So far, at least, this is relatively minor from a macroeconomic perspective,” he said.

"It’s going to take a lot to derail this economy."

But a wide variety of businesses from manufacturers to agriculture have expressed concern that the tariffs will cost them money and jobs if they go into effect.