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After brutal winter, job market shows signs of thawing

WASHINGTON -- In an encouraging sign ahead of Friday's monthly employment report, a survey by a big payroll processing firm suggests that hiring may be picking up after the harsh winter.

ADP Inc. estimated Wednesday that private employers added 191,000 jobs in March. Though still a moderate gain, that number is the most this year and consistent with the pace of monthly job creation last year before the unusually cold weather slowed activity.    

ADP's analysis, conducted with Moody's Analytics, shows that construction had a solid month, as did the trade and transportation sectors. The largest jobs gain in March, a total of 53,000, came in professional and business services -- a sprawling category that includes low-wage janitors and home healthcare workers as well as high-paid bankers and physicians.

Economists are forecasting job growth of about 200,000 for March in the report to be released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That report includes private- and public-sector jobs, as well as the nation's unemployment rate. Analysts expect to see a drop in the jobless figure, to 6.6% from 6.7% in February.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, said the latest ADP data could point to a spurt in hiring over the next few months as employers make up for jobs that were not filled, in part because of the brutal winter. Still, Zandi said it remains to be seen whether companies would show increased confidence by stepping up hiring and investments.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics previously said the economy added 175,000 jobs in February after adding 129,000 in January and just 84,000 in December.

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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