In February, consumer spending rose by the most in five months. And consumer confidence improved in March from the previous month, according to a survey released last week by the University of Michigan.
Two reports Wednesday, however, suggested companies may have grown more cautious last month. Services companies grew in March but at a slower pace than in February, according to the Institute for Supply Management, a trade group. Service firms, which include retailers, hotels, restaurants and financial companies, cut back on hiring and a measure of new orders fell.
And private employers added fewer jobs in March compared with February, according to payroll processor ADP. Construction firms didn't add any positions after three months of strong gains.
Several economists lowered their forecasts for hiring in March after Wednesday's reports. Still, many analysts cautioned that the ADP is not always an accurate predictor of the government's more comprehensive figures.
Nearly 5.3 million people received unemployment aid in the week ended March 16, the latest data available. That's about 170,000 fewer than the previous week.