Tuesday, March 11, 2014
The Kansas City Star
The September jobs report, due to come out Friday, is likely to be a casualty of the federal government shutdown.
And that’s not the only loss for number-crunchers. The federal government is the prime source of data ranging from the size of the corn crop to the number of unemployed construction workers to the size of the trade deficit with China.
Students doing school reports, along with anyone else seeking government information, are being thwarted by shuttered websites and closed offices. Even historical data are inaccessible from the websites of some federal agencies, including the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau.
The website shutdowns created a bizarre situation Tuesday in which many simple economic facts couldn’t be researched or verified.
The problem will get worse the longer the shutdown lasts. Many closely watched sources of national economic data, such as factory orders, won’t be revealed this week because “nonessential” federal workers were sent home.
The Commerce Department’s monthly construction spending report for August, due Tuesday, wasn’t released. Factory orders are due Thursday. A slim chance remained, should Labor Department workers return to work soon, that the job report could be ready for Friday, but the odds didn’t look good.
The home-building industry was hoping that the August construction spending report would show a pickup. Without it, their worlds go on, but a numbers uptick would help raise consumer confidence, perhaps leading to more building and mortgage activity.
The government’s inability to produce such statistical pictures of the U.S economy doesn’t have an immediate financial effect on consumers, but the lack of timely information matters to economists, stock and bond traders, professors and other researchers.
The biggest hit, of course, is to the federal workers who produce those reports. They may or may not regain lost pay after the funding impasse is resolved.
The shutdown also affects job applicants seeking federal employment who won’t have applications processed or interviews conducted.
Combined, all the federal economic reports are used to help business owners and other decision makers understand history as well as recent trends and set courses of action. They’re the key ways to measure the health of the U.S. economy.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which produces the job market reports, posted this notice on its Web page: “During the shutdown period BLS will not collect data, issue reports or respond to public inquiries.”