Surprise rise in private-sector jobs

Survey from payroll services firm ADP shows increase in the number of jobs created last month.

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By Ben Rooney, staff writer

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NEW YORK ( -- In a surprising flash of good news for the U.S. economy, businesses added jobs in March, according to a survey of private sector employers released Wednesday.

Payroll services firm ADP's employment report showed an increase of 8,000 private sector jobs last month. Economists were expecting a decline of 45,000 private sector jobs, according to

The report showed a revised loss of 18,000 jobs in February, which was the first decline in the two years ADP has been tracking employment data.

"This is an unexpected piece of constructive news," said Bob Brusca, an economist at FAO Economics. "It suggests that the job market isn't getting unequivocally worse."

However, while the report showed the job market expanding overall, certain underlying trends remain intact.

The service sector added 85,000 jobs, while the goods-producing sector cut 77,000 jobs in March - the 16th consecutive monthly decline.

Small-sized businesses, those with fewer than 50 workers, added 55,000 jobs in March. Large businesses, on the other hand, cut 52,000 jobs.

The increase in small business jobs is not surprising, according to Molly Brogan, a spokeswoman for the National Small Business Association.

"When you're looking at an economic downturn, starting your own business becomes a more viable option," she said.

Brogan thinks a "large chunk" of the 55,000 jobs added in the small-business segment came from workers exiting large businesses. Moreover, the survey counts business operated by individuals as small businesses, which could also account for the large increase.

Meanwhile, residential construction businesses cut 22,000 jobs in March - the 16th straight month of decline - as the turmoil in the housing market continued to batter homebuilders.

Employment in the financial services sector was flat.

Earlier Wednesday, outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas reported that March layoff notices fell by 26% to 53,579 from February. But that still puts the number of announced cuts 9% above year-earlier levels.

Both reports come ahead of Friday's closely watched employment report from the Labor Department, which includes private and public sector jobs data. Economists are forecasting a decline of 50,000 jobs in March. The unemployment rate is expected to increase to 5% from 4.8% in February.

Brusca said the ADP report could indicate that Friday's report will show a smaller-than-expected decline, or possibly an increase in employment.  To top of page

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