February's job gains were likely once more chilled by winter weather, and even March's employment report could be slushy.
Economists expect to see 150,000 non-farm payrolls added in February, when the government data is released on Friday. They are also watching to see if January's unemployment rate of 6.6 percent falls to 6.5 percent, a level the Federal Reserve set as a threshold where it could consider raising short-term rates.
While February jobs growth is expected to be soft, it is not expected to be as weak as the 113,000 jobs added in January or the 75,000 in December.
The labor-related data has been mixed recently, but Thursday's weekly jobless claims report was a positive surprise. Weekly unemployment claims fell to 323,000 during the week ending March 1, down 26,000 and more than 12,000 below consensus.
Economists said the report points to a better outlook for continuing claims since it seemed to contain no special factors. The week earlier's report was revised up to 349,000, and the Labor Department blamed the fluctuation on winter storms.
Economists have been watching a mixed bag of economic data, hoping to see if the spotty trend is due to an unusually harsh winter with lots of storms, or something else.