WASHINGTON (AP) — Hiring went into a deep freeze this winter as harsh weather slowed the economy. A warmer March has raised a key question for Friday's monthly jobs report: Did hiring rebound in March along with the temperatures?
Most economists think it did.
But some of the pickup in hiring will likely reflect a temporary bounce-back from the cold winter months. It may not be immediately clear how much of the job growth will endure.
Analysts forecast that employers added 195,000 jobs last month, according to a survey by FactSet. That would be the highest total in four months and up from 175,000 in February. The unemployment rate is predicted to fall to 6.6 percent from 6.7 percent in February.
Low temperatures and heavy snowstorms this winter closed factories, interrupted work at construction sites and kept consumers away from shopping malls. Hiring fell to an average of 129,000 jobs a month from December through February. That was sharply lower than the average of 225,000 in the previous three months.
Some economists project that a much larger job gain took place last month. That's largely because they think some hiring was delayed until March by the cold weather in January and February, thereby boosting March's job growth.
Drew Matus, an economist at UBS, predicts that employers added 250,000 jobs last month, though he thinks 50,000 to 75,000 of that total will reflect delayed hiring from previous months.
"There's more uncertainty around this number than usual," Matus said.
Leaving aside the weather effect, economists generally expect hiring to average about 200,000 jobs a month for the rest of the year. Hiring at that pace should lower the unemployment rate and support steady growth.
Most recent economic data suggest that the economy is picking up from the winter freeze.