Economists forecasted before a report this week Employers probably gained more than 200,000 workers for a third straight month in February amid optimism about the U.S. expansion.
Payrolls added by 210,000 last month after rising 243,000 in January, the most in nine months, and 203,000 at the end of 2011, according to the median projection of 55 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. It would mark the strongest three- month stretch in almost a year. The jobless rate probably held at an almost three-year low of 8.3 percent.
Bigger employment and wage increases would go further in backing household spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy and is threatened by higher fuel costs. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said last week that while the labor market is making progress restoring the 8.7 million jobs lost as a result of the recession, it’s “far from normal.”
“There is a much more encouraging labor-market backdrop for the consumer in early 2012,” said Conrad DeQuadros, senior economist at RDQ Economics LLC in New York. “But economic growth is moderate, which leaves the unemployment rate fairly elevated by year-end, and that’s the Fed’s main focus.”
The Labor Department report is due March 9. Payroll estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from increases of 130,000 to 275,000. The January gain was the biggest since last April, when employers hired 251,000 more employees. Employment in December rose 203,000.
Another report may show the services industry, which makes up almost 90 percent of the economy, expanded near the fastest pace in a year.