The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Friday, forecasters expect the Labor Department to report the economy added 204,000 jobs in February, down from 243,000 in January. My estimate is 180,000. Despite anecdotal reports of new hiring and consumer optimism, weaker jobs gains are likely for the next few months, because real consumer spending, the largest component of economic growth, was flat November, December and January. Auto sales are doing well but higher gasoline prices are crowding out most discretionary purchases.
For the second quarter, things look brighter. Consumers will have assimilated higher gasoline prices and consolidated their credit positions by April, and further growth in household income should result in stronger real consumer outlays beyond the auto sector.