The BLS employment figure beat the forecast by analysts contacted by Reuters of a 120,000 gain.
The employment gain in March was only slightly better than in February, which was the smallest gain in more than two years (See February Job Growth Trails Two Previous Months ).
Construction employment rose sharply for the month by 56,000, following a large decline in the prior month of 61,000. Overall, the construction industry has shown no net growth since employment peaked in September 2006. Over this span, job gains in the non-residential components of construction have been more than offset by losses in the residential components.
General merchandise stores also saw a sizable job gain in March by 36,000; however, the recent growth in employment in general merchandise stores was little changed over the year. Employment in building material and garden supply stores has declined by 15,000 since reaching its peak in October 2006.
Employment in health care continued to increase in March with a gain of 30,000, and over the year, the industry added 348,000 jobs. In March, offices of physicians and hospitals added 9,000 jobs each, while nursing and residential care facilities added 7,000.
Food services and drinking places also continued to add jobs in March, increasing by 19,000. Over the year, employment in the industry grew by 335,000.
Professional and business services employment was essentially unchanged in March and over the first quarter of 2007. Employment continued to expand in computer systems design and in management and technical consulting services, but those job gains were offset by small job losses in accounting and bookkeeping and in employment services.
Manufacturing employment continued to trend down over the month (-16,000), with declines in furniture and related products (-4,000), computer and electronic products (-4,000), textile mills (-2,000), and paper and paper products (-2,000).