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Hiring surges as economy adds 298,000 private-sector jobs in February

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Latest MoneyWatch headlines 01:08

WASHINGTON - U.S. private businesses added the most jobs in three years last month, a private survey found, a sign that hiring is picking up seven years after the recession ended. 

Payroll processor ADP said Wednesday that businesses added 298,000 jobs in February, up from 261,000 in January. The gains were led by a huge 66,000 increase in construction, the most in 11 years, and 32,000 manufacturing jobs. 

The hiring boom in construction was likely driven by unseasonably warm weather in most of the country. Still, job gains were broad-based and suggest increased business optimism has led to more hiring. 

The ADP covers only private businesses and often diverge from official figures. Economists forecast that the government’s jobs report, due Friday, will show an increase of 186,000, according to data provider FactSet. 

President Donald Trump hailed the job gain in a tweet, noting it was “much more than expected.”

Yet the large gain in the ADP figures will likely raise economists’ expectations for the government’s report. That report will be the final major economic data that Federal Reserve officials will see before their March 14-15 meeting, when they are widely expected to raise short-term interest rates for only the third time in nearly a decade.

A rate hike will be even more likely if the government’s data reflects strong hiring similar to the ADP report. Many economists say job gains would have to plummet to roughly 50,000 or less to give the Fed pause.

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