Businesses added 209,000 jobs in March, suggesting the recent improvement in the labor market continuing, a report by a payrolls processor showed on Wednesday.
The ADP National Employment Report was slightly above economists' expectations for a gain of 200,000 jobs. Analysts said it did not change their forecasts for the government's more comprehensive labor market report due on Friday, which includes both public and private sector employment.
Job gains for January and February were also revised up to 182,000 and 230,000, respectively. The report is jointly developed with Macroeconomic Advisers LLC.
My conclusion is the employment growth trend that we've seen over the last year remains in place and we probably will see a decent employment number on Friday when the Department of Labor reports non-farm payrolls, said Fred Dickson, chief market strategist at D.A. Davidson & Co in Lake Oswego, Oregon.
The nonfarm payrolls report from the U.S. Labor Department is expected to show a gain of 203,000 jobs last month, including a rise in private payrolls of 218,000.
For a graphic on ADP v. the U.S. Labor Department, see http://link.reuters.com/nub57s
The Labor Department report has shown the economy added more than 200,000 jobs in each of the last three months, helping to keep the economic recovery on track.
Federal Reserve policymakers backed away from the need to begin a third round of monetary stimulus to boost the economy as the recovery gradually improves, minutes from the central bank's last meeting showed on Tuesday.
Still, the central bank's assessment of the economy remained cautious. Economists expect growth to have slowed in the first quarter compared to the 3.0 percent annualized rate in the final months of last year.
Economists often refer to the ADP report to fine-tune their expectations for the Labor Department's payrolls numbers, though the two sets of data are not always well correlated.
The average difference between ADP's figures and the government-reported private jobs numbers over the last 12 months was 1,000, according to Credit Suisse.
U.S. stock index futures trimmed losses immediately after the data, but were pointing to a lower open for Wall Street in the early morning as investors took in the Fed's comments.
(Reporting by Leah Schnurr; Additional reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak)