WASHINGTON (Reuters) — U.S. companies stepped up hiring in March and factory orders rose solidly in February, in further signs the economy was regaining momentum after a recent weather-driven slowdown.
Private employers added 191,000 new workers to their payrolls last month, the ADP National Employment Report showed on Wednesday. That was up from 178,000 jobs in February.
"The economy is continuing to dig itself out of the weather-induced slump," said Millan Mulraine, deputy chief economist at TD Securities in New York.
The ADP report, which is jointly developed with Moody's Analytics, was released ahead of the government's comprehensive monthly employment report on Friday.
Yields on U.S. Treasuries edged higher on the ADP report.
Non-farm payrolls are expected to have increased by 200,000 in March, the largest gain in four months, according to a Reuters poll of economists. Hiring advanced by 175,000 jobs in February. The unemployment rate is expected to have dropped one-tenth of a percentage point to 6.6 per cent.
An unusually cold and snowy winter began to slam the economy in December and has weighed heavily on first-quarter growth.
Signs that winter's grip on the economy is fading should bolster expectations for an acceleration in growth in the second quarter.
In a separate report, the Commerce Department said new orders for manufactured goods jumped 1.6 per cent in February, the biggest rise since last September.
January's orders were revised to show a larger 1.0 per cent drop instead of the previously reported 0.7 per cent fall. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast new orders received by factories rebounding 1.2 per cent in February.
Shipments of new orders increased 0.9 per cent in February, the largest rise since last July. Orders excluding the volatile transportation category advanced 0.7 per cent in February, also the biggest gain since last July.
These orders had slipped 0.1 per cent in January.
Factory activity is clawing back after the cold weather weighed on activity in December and January. Still, factories remain constrained as businesses try to work through a glut of unsold goods from the second half of 2013.
The Commerce Department report showed inventories rose 0.7 per cent in February, the biggest rise since October 2011.
A report on Tuesday showed a gauge of national factory activity rising in March for a second month.
In February, factory orders rose across most categories, with big gains in transportation, primary metals and computers and electronic products. Orders for electrical equipment, appliances and components fell as did bookings for machinery.
The department also said orders for durable goods, which are manufactured products expected to last three years or more, increased 2.2 per cent as reported last month.
Orders for non-defence capital goods excluding aircraft, seen as a measure of business confidence and spending plans, fell 1.4 per cent rather than the previously reported 1.3 per cent drop.