America will learn Friday how many jobs were created in March. The result should help investors solve the mystery of whether harsh winter weather or slowing growth has been behind a spate of weak economic readings.
The consensus expectation is for 195,00 new jobs, according to FactSet. After three lukewarm-to-weak reports, that would mark the biggest nonfarm payrolls increase since November.
Joseph LaVorgna, chief US economist at Deutsche Bank, is expecting an even bigger increase of 275,000.
"I'm surprised people aren't higher on their numbers," LaVorgna told CNBC.com. "The true underlying pace of job growth is 180,000 to 200,000, probably, [and] 275,000 just gets us back to the trend that was in place prior to most of the weather distortion."
While LaVorgna expects to see the March number increased by a spate of delayed activity, he says that a weak reading still won't change his view that weather has been temporarily stifling the economy.
"Say that in March, we say half of what we're expecting. Well, then [the] weather payback effect could still be coming," the economist said. "We're going to need to see April and May data. We could be sitting here in June, still questioning whether there was a weather effect."
But Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group, says the effect of the weather has been overstated.
"It should be a clear jobs number, and we are going to see a bounce-back, but it's just a matter of to what degree," Boockvar said. "I don't think the rebound is going to be so dramatic."
In Boockvar's view, economic growth is actually moderating a bit.
The weakness "was more than just weather. I think the economy had a nice inventory-driven boost in the second half of last year, and we're seeing some giveback," he said.
Either way, the markets will obviously be watching the Friday employment report closely.
"We've seen anemic upticks in jobs growth," said Jeff Kilburg of KKM Financial. "If we have a miss, people will be upset, and you will see them exit positions."