Waiter Boris Macquin serves customers behind plexiglass at Figaro Bistro on the first day Los Angeles County has allowed indoor seating since the coronavirus pandemic on March 15, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.

Gina Ferazzi | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images

Personal payrolls rose in March at the fastest pace since September, as expectations of a strong economic recovery coupled with aggressive vaccination rates forced companies to shut down, according to a report by payroll firm ADP on Wednesday.

Companies hired 517,000 workers during the month, up from 176,000 in February, but just below the Dow Jones estimate of 525,000, as well as some extremely bullish calls for a non-farm government payroll. The February total has been revised up significantly from the 117,000 originally reported.

Though a little below expectations, the March total was the biggest hiring surge since September’s 821,000.

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Importantly, the biggest job gains were in the leisure and hospitality sector, which has been hardest hit due to the government shutdowns related to the Covid-19 pandemic. The sector added 169,000 new workers, part of an overall 437,000 increase in service-related jobs.

Hotels, restaurants, bars and the like have “the greatest opportunity to improve as the economy begins to reopen and the vaccine becomes more widely available,” said Nela Richardson, chief economist at ADP, who compiled the report with Moody’s Analytics.

“We are still closely monitoring the sectors most affected, but the foundations are being laid for a further increase in the monthly hiring pace over the coming months.”

Commerce, transportation, and utilities added 92,000 to the total, while professional and business services increased 83,000 and education and health services added 68,000.

Producers of goods also saw strong growth over the month, with manufacturing adding 49,000 and construction adding 32,000 new employees.

From the viewpoint of size, the setting was made uniform.

Companies with 50 to 499 employees led with 188,000 new additions, while small businesses added 174,000 and large companies added 155,000.

The ADP balance sheet precedes Friday’s non-farm payroll report, which is expected to see an increase of 675,000 from February’s 379,000. According to estimates by Dow Jones, the unemployment rate should fall from 6.2% to 6%.