ADP: Private employers create 158,000 new jobs in March

Led by growth in the services sector, private-sector employment increased by 158,000 jobs from February to March, according to the monthly ADP National Employment Report.

The March number is lower than most economists expected, but over the first quarter of 2013, the report shows an average gain of 191,000 new private-sector jobs per month, according to Carlos A. Rodriguez, president and chief executive officer of ADP.

The report, which is derived from ADP’s payroll data, measures the change in total nonfarm private employment each month on a seasonally adjusted basis. It is produced in collaboration with Moody’s Analytics.

By sector, services accounted for the bulk of new jobs in March, adding 151,000. Among that total, professional-business services added 39,000.

Meanwhile, trade and transportation/utilities added 22,000; financial, 9,000; goods-producing businesses, 7,000; and manufacturing, 6,000.

After a series of monthly gains, construction added no new net jobs in March. Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, noted that construction employment gains paused as the rebuilding surge in the wake of Superstorm Sandy ended.

In addition, Zandi said anticipation of health care reform may also be weighing on employment at companies with close to 50 employees, which have to stay under 50 employees or make the “pay or play” decision outlined in the Affordable Care Act.

In terms of company size, small businesses (1-49 employees) added 74,000 jobs, medium businesses (50-499 employees) gained 37,000 jobs, and large businesses (500 or more employees) added 47,000.

While the March report did not meet economists’ projections, revisions to job gains in the two prior months were mixed. February’s gain of 198,000 jobs was revised up by 39,000 to 237,000, and January’s 215,000 gain was revised down by 38,000 to 177,000.

The U.S. Labor Department’s preliminary employment data for March will be released on Friday.