March 31 (UPI) -- The United States added some 517,000 new jobs in March, the strongest gain in half a year, according to a private-sector assessment released Wednesday.
ADP and Moody's Analytics said in its monthly report that the largest gains were in midsize businesses, 188,000, with small companies adding 174,000 jobs and large companies added 155,000.
By sector, the service industry saw the greatest increase, with 437,000, including 169,000 jobs in the leisure and hospitality industry and 92,000 in the trade/transportation/utilities industry. Only the information industry saw a decline -- 7,000 jobs lost in March.
The goods/producing sector added 80,000 jobs, broken down by 49,000 jobs in manufacturing and 32,000 in construction. There was a loss of 1,000 jobs in natural resources/mining.
"We saw marked improvement in March's labor market data, reporting the strongest gain since September 2020," Nela Richardson, chief economist at ADP, said. "Job growth in the service sector significantly outpaced its recent monthly average, led with notable increase by the leisure and hospitality industry.
"This sector has the most opportunity to improve as the economy continues to gradually reopen and the vaccine is made more widely available. We are continuing to keep a close watch on the hardest hit sectors but the groundwork is being laid for a further boost in the monthly pace of hiring in the months ahead."
The 517,000 new jobs was a marked improvement over recent months' gains. After a September spike of 821,000 new jobs, the monthly figure declined to an overall loss of 75,000 jobs in December.
January saw an increase of 196,000 jobs, followed by a 176,000 increase in February.
March's increase came the same month President Joe Biden signed a new $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus package that provided $1,400 direct payments, expanded unemployment benefits, increased child tax credits and money to increase COVID-19 vaccinations.
Nearly 700,000 workers filed for new unemployment benefits Thursday, the lowest weekly figure since the start of the pandemic. The Labor Department said there were 3.9 million continuing claims, with a 2.7% unemployment rate.