NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Investors will welcome a steady stream of economic data in the holiday-shortened coming week, none weightier than the government's latest assessment of the labor market. When asked about the market-moving events he'll be eyeing, Phil Orlando, chief equity market strategist at Federated Investors, said it best. "It's jobs, jobs, jobs," he said. "We believe the March number is going to be the first in a series of significant, positive nonfarm jobs reports. We're clearly at an inflection point in the cycle right here."
Indeed, investors will get an appetizer Wednesday morning when Automatic Data Processing unveils its own employment report. Weekly initial jobless claims figures, a regular staple of a balanced economic data diet, will also come due on Thursday. > > Bull or Bear? Vote in Our Poll But the main course, so to speak, will be released on Friday at 8:30 a.m. EST when the Bureau of Labor Statistics unveils its March job numbers. If many economists and analysts are to be believed, the report could be a turning point. The early Street consensus is anticipating that nonfarm payrolls picked up 200,000 jobs during the month after employers shed 36,000 jobs in February, according to Briefing.com. Meanwhile, many foresee the nation's unemployment rate holding steady at 9.7%. Orlando said several observations are fueling his optimism. As a leading economic indicator, first-time applications for state unemployment insurance have dropped dramatically since their peaks last year. Also, the February report could have turned positive. Orlando said reporting may have been diluted because of weather, citing a government statistic that 1.03 million people didn't make it to work at one point during the month because of blizzard-like conditions. "So, we're thinking March is going to be 200,000 or better," Orlando said. "We ought to see the first in what we believe is going to be a sustainable series of nonfarm payrolls." Some, however, are feeling less hopeful. Michael Pento, chief economist at Delta Global Advisors, said businesses continue to struggle with bank lending among other things, making hiring much more difficult. He's also one of several voices expecting a pickup in census hiring to overshadow more organic private-sector growth in the report.