Respectable nonfarm payroll growth of at least 200,000 is likely in store for March based on mostly steady indications from initial jobless claims, which inched 1,000 higher in the March 14 week to 291,000 with the 4-week average up a modest 2,250 to 304,750.

The latest week's data are of special importance given that the week is also the sample week for the March employment report. Comparisons with the sample week in February show a 9,000 rise (291,000 vs 282,000) but a steeper 21,750 rise for the 4-week average (304,750 vs 283,000).

Though these readings don't point to improvement for nonfarm payroll growth in March, the comparison with February is unusually hard, at plus 295,000.

Continuing claims, which are reported with a 1-week lag, fell 11,000 to 2.417 million in data for the March 7 week with the 4-week average down 1,000 to 2.418 million.

Like initial claims, continuing claims have been mostly steady so far this year. The unemployment rate for insured workers is unchanged at a recovery low of 1.8%.