Companies kept up the hiring pace in March, adding 241,000 positions as employment in construction and manufacturing surged, according to a report Wednesday from ADP and Moody's Analytics.
Economists surveyed by Reuters had been expecting the report to show that private payrolls had gained by 205,000.
This was the fifth straight month that the ADP/Moody's count showed private payrolls up by at least 200,000, though March saw a slight decline from the upwardly revised 246,000 in February. On a year-over-year basis, March 2018 nearly doubled the 122,000 total from the previous year.
"The job market is rip-roaring," Mark Zandi, Moody's Analytics' chief economist, said in a statement. "Monthly job growth remains firmly over 200,000, double the pace of labor force growth. The tight labor market continues to tighten."
Job gains were broad-based, spread across both business size and sector.
Service providers added 176,000 while goods-producing industries contributed 65,000. Construction and manufacturing led the latter category, adding 31,000 and 29,000 respectively.
On the services side, professional and business led with 44,000, while trade, transportation and utilities was next with 40,000. Health care and social assistance added 28,000 while leisure and hospitality grew by 26,000.
Medium-sized firms, with 50 to 499 employees, were the top jobs producers with 127,000 new hires, while large firms added 67,000 and small businesses rose by 47,000.
The ADP/Moody's report comes two days ahead of the closely watched nonfarm payrolls report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Wall Street is looking for growth of about 185,000 and a decline in the unemployment rate to 4 percent from 4.1 percent.
However, a strong ADP report sometimes can cause economists to adjust their numbers. The two counts sometimes differ significantly, though for February the BLS reported that private payrolls grew by 233,000, just 13,000 below the revised ADP number and 2,000 below the originally reported 235,000.
The private payrolls number "adds upside potential," to PNC's forecast that Friday's report will show nonfarm growth of 160,000, its economist Gus Faucher said in a note.
"The U.S. labor market is in excellent shape in early 2018. With the economic expansion set to become the second-longest in US history, approaching nine years, the job market has fully recovered from the Great Recession," Faucher said.
CORRECTION: This story's headline was updated to show the private sector jobs numbers were for the month of March.