Markets closed: No trading today for Good Friday.
Parsing job numbers: Economists are trying to get a handle on a March employment report that was weaker than expected. One figure stands out: Private payrolls came in at only 121,000, compared with expectations of 215,000. From Bill McBride at Calculated Risk:
The number of payroll jobs added in March was disappointing, and this is reminding many observers of the slowdown in 2011. But we also have to remember that this is just one month, and that there were clear reasons for the slowdown last year. In 2011, the economy was negatively impacted by the tsunami, bad weather, high oil prices and the debt ceiling debate. Of course oil prices are high again, but hopefully there will be no natural disasters, and also no threats of defaulting on the debt.
Question on jobless claims?: Those weekly filings keep getting revised upward, which suggests that the downward pattern of recent months is not quite as strong as initially reported. From the WSJ:
While the consistent need for upward revisions doesn't undermine the overall trend of an improving job market, it does suggest that the government's methodology for its initial estimate might not properly take into account factors such as seasonal adjustments or under-counting by states. Economists have already cautioned that claims data should be viewed over time to detect a trend, but most economists contacted by Dow Jones as well as Labor Department officials said they were unaware of the nearly uniform upward revisions in the data over the past year.
Another drop in gas prices: An average gallon of regular in the L.A. area is $4.305, according to the Auto Club, down a penny from Thursday and about a nickel from a week ago.
AEG betting on mass transit: Specifically, that 1 in 4 fans will come to the proposed downtown stadium by some other means than a car. And that might be possible. From the LAT:
Transportation planning consultant Ryan Snyder, who serves as a lecturer at UCLA, said he would like to see AEG focus less on freeway improvements for cars and more on the creation of bus-only lanes on corridors leading to the stadium. But he also said the transit assumptions made by AEG are achievable. "I'm willing to believe those numbers," he said.
State calls Aetna rate hikes "excessive": The increases average 8 percent a year for 77,000 small business employees, though in some cases they're as high as 21 percent. For now, there's not much state officials can do about it. From the LAT:
[Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones] used the opportunity to also restate his support for a proposed statewide ballot initiative that would give him the same power to approve or reject changes in health insurance rates that he has for automobile, homeowners and other types of property and casualty insurance. "I am disappointed that Aetna has decided to reject my request to refrain from its latest health insurance rate increases on small employers, which are unreasonable and not justified by the company's claims experiences," Jones said.