WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. economy likely created 150,000 fewer jobs in the 12 months through March than previously estimated, the Labor Department said on Wednesday.

The reading, which is a preliminary estimate of the department's annual "benchmark" revision to closely watched payrolls data, showed the retail, wholesale trade, education and professional and business services sectors accounted for the bulk of the downward revision.

Payrolls in the mining, utilities and financial sectors were also less than previously reported. But manufacturing, construction, transportation and warehousing, government, and leisure and hospitality added more jobs than has been reported.

Once a year, the government compares its nonfarm payrolls data, based on monthly surveys of a sample of employers, with a much more complete database of unemployment insurance tax records.

A final benchmark revision will be released in February along with the department's report on employment for January. Government statisticians will use the final benchmark count to revise payrolls data for months both prior to and after March.

(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)