Private sector adds 201,000 jobs

By Leah Schnurr

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. labor market showed signs of further recovery in March, as private employers added jobs and planned layoffs fell, according to data released on Wednesday.

U.S. private employers added 201,000 jobs in March, according to the ADP Employer Services report. The figure was largely in line with expectations for a gain of 203,000 jobs. The report is jointly developed with Macroeconomic Advisers LLC.

February's figure was revised down to 208,000 from 217,000.

"Basically the number was very much in line with expectations and shows that the labor recovery continues at a reasonable pace," said David Katz, chief investment officer at Matrix Asset Advisors in New York.

"It looks like the U.S. economic recovery continues, and the improving labor market should be a buffer against weak areas like real estate."

That report is expected to show the economy created about 190,000 jobs in March based on a Reuters poll of analysts, while private payrolls are forecast to rise by 200,000.

A separate report on Wednesday showed the number of planned layoffs at U.S. firms fell in March after spiking up the month before. Employers announced 41,528 planned job cuts this month, down 18 percent from the 50,702 cuts announced in February, according to the report from consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Overall, 130,749 job cuts were announced in the first three months of the year, marking the lowest rate of downsizing since 1995.

The highest level of job reductions this year has been seen in the government sector, the report noted. Losses are expected to grow as cash-strapped state and local governments deal with budget problems.

U.S. Treasury prices rose modestly immediately after the ADP data and the U.S. dollar trimmed gains against the euro and yen, while U.S. stock index futures remained higher.

Economists often refer to the ADP report to fine-tune their expectations for the government monthly payrolls numbers, though it is not always accurate in predicting the outcome.

The slow recovery in the jobs market has been one of the biggest hurdles to a sustainable economic recovery, but recent data has raised optimism that improvement in employment is strengthening.

Housing, however, has remained outside of the broader recovery. The Mortgage Bankers Association on Wednesday reported that applications for U.S. home mortgages tumbled last week as higher interest rates sapped demand for loan refinancing.

(Reporting by Leah Schnurr, additional reporting by Ryan Vlastelica and Edith Honan; Editing by Leslie Adler)