Private-sector payrolls expanded at a solid pace in March, with half coming from small businesses, according to reports released Wednesday.

Private-sector jobs in the U.S. rose by 201,000 this month, according to a national employment report published by payroll giant Automatic Data Processing Inc. and consultancy Macroeconomic Advisers.

Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had expected ADP to report a job gain of 205,000 in March. The February data were revised to show a rise of 208,000 versus the 217,000 increase first reported.

The ADP report said, “The average monthly increase in employment over the last four months — December through March — has been 211,000, consistent with a gradual if uneven decline in the unemployment rate.”

The ADP survey tallies only private-sector jobs, while the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ nonfarm payroll data, to be released Friday, include government workers.

Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires expect total nonfarm payrolls increased by 195,000 in March, not much different from a gain of 192,000 in February.

The March unemployment rate is expected to stay at February’s 8.9%.

The latest ADP report showed large businesses with 500 employees or more hired 17,000 new employees, and medium-size businesses added 82,000 workers in March and small businesses that employ fewer than 50 workers added a large 102,000 new workers.

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