Of the 235,000 jobs added in February, 28,000 were in manufacturing, a sector that had added only 7,000 jobs year-over-year. There were 8,000 mining jobs added that month, bringing total hiring in the sector to 20,000 since it hit a low in October.
"The trade balance is stabilizing and we're starting to export a bit more. The global economy is on firmer ground. The value of the dollar is more stable. Manufacturing took it on the chin when China stumbled and the dollar rose," said Zandi. He noted that the trade-weighted dollar gained 15 percent between mid-2014 and mid-2015, which had repercussions on trade and corporate profits.
"The economy has stabilized, and the dollar found its footing. That's reflected in better exports, better trade balance, and that's been a big plus for manufacturing," he said.
Zandi said there was a reversal of an earlier big increase in product inventories that stalled manufacturing activity. Another positive has been the surge in auto sales last year. Economists, however, believe those sales have peaked after cresting at an annualized selling pace above 18 million vehicles in late 2016.
"They're weakening now, so as we move through the year, that's not going to be the source of growth. It's not going to be the source of new jobs, as it has been. Sales have peaked," he said.
Construction has been a strong area for hiring, with 177,000 jobs added in the past six months according to government data. The last three months were the best period for hiring since the 2006 housing boom.
Construction and manufacturing are classified as goods-producing jobs by ADP. "That is a big turnaround. Goods-producing [industries] were losing lots of jobs a year ago. They're adding jobs. That's why the [government] jobs numbers are holding up as well. The services numbers have been doing what they're doing," said Zandi.
"It is kind of interesting from the political angle. That's where Trump is focused: coal, mining, energy. If you look at that today, it's working. There's a difference between causation and correlation," he said.
Zandi, whose firm crunches ADP's payroll data using ADP data, said he expects to see a strong non-farm payrolls number, above 200,000 jobs. ADP reported 263,000 in its private sector payrolls report Wednesday, but a number of Wall Street economists said they were retaining their much lower forecasts because of potential weather impact in the government data.
JPMorgan economists said they were expecting 140,000 payrolls, and UBS said they are expecting 155,000. Goldman Sachs economists expect 170,000 payrolls, and say that their forecast could have been 30,000 to 60,000 higher were it not for the winter storms in March.
Zandi said one of the differences in the ADP data, is that it counts as employed those workers who are on the payroll but can't make it to work due to weather. The government data, however, will not count a worker who does not show up to work for a week due to weather, if they are not paid.