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March Jobs Report: Manufacturing Holds Key

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The nonfarm payrolls report due Friday morning is expected to show a steady pickup in private sector job creation, with broad participation from the various sectors of the economy.

But with the onset of new disturbances at the global level in the form of the Japan earthquake and the ongoing tensions in the Middle East, expectations for a swift recovery in the jobs market in the forthcoming months have once again been tempered.

The economy is likely to have added 185,000 jobs in March, according to the latest consensus estimates from Briefing.com. Companies are expected to have created an additional 203,000 jobs, offsetting layoffs at the state and local government level.

The unemployment rate is forecast to tick up by a tenth of a point to 9%.

On Wednesday, the ADP survey offered markets a first take at the March employment situation. According to the report, companies added 201,000 jobs , with small businesses contributing to more than half of that growth.

Other indicators have also pointed to robust job creation. Weekly jobless claims have remained well below 400,000 levels for several weeks now.

The Chicago Purchasing Managers Index for March came in at 70.6, suggesting that manufacturing continues to be strong despite concerns about rising oil prices and its impact on final demand.

At the 200,000 mark, the jobs report is likely to present a "goldilocks" scenario to investors, according to John Canally, chief economist at LPL Financial. Speaking about the ADP report he said "job growth was enough to say we are not in a double dip, but not strong enough for the Fed to remove stimulus," said Canally.

"At over 300,000, investors may begin to worry about tightening. However, job growth will need to fall below 100,000 for investors to be worried about the impact of rising oil prices on consumer spending and the economy. At around 150,000 to 300,000, the jobs report will be in the comfort range."

The Federal Reserve is widely expected to follow through and then conclude its $600 billion bond buying program in June, although there is still some talk about a possible QE3 (further quantitative easing) as rising oil prices could weigh on growth. The central bank will be providing its outlook for the economy and jobs in its policy meeting in late April and Chairman Ben Bernanke will also be holding a highly anticipated press briefing, where policy decisions will be discussed.

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