Data: A Casualty of the Shutdown

The partial shutdown of the federal government attained the undesirable title of being the nation’s longest this weekend. Now in its 24th day, the shutdown has paused paychecks for about 800,000 federal workers and sent HR departments across the country scrambling, as they deal with fallout from the halting of federal services like E-Verify and the closure of agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

A new report from Pew Research Center finds another area in the shutdown’s crosshairs: data. With federal agencies pumping out statistical analyses on everything from unemployment to the economy regularly–relied upon by public and private entities alike–many have been left wondering how the churn of numbers will be impacted by the partial shutdown of the federal government.

Pew found a mixed bag. On Friday, the government released the December inflation report, and HR professionals and business executives can soon expect the detailed state- and municipal-level jobs report based on the national jobs stats unveiled earlier this month. However, the forecast for the January jobs report is less clear: According to Pew, the Bureau of Labor Statistics–which is fully funded and functional–compiles the stats with the U.S. Census Bureau. The latter is partially shuttered and only funneling resources into planning for the 2020 Census, leaving a question mark over the January report.

Even if it is released, reports the Associated Press, the numbers will likely be skewed because of the hundreds of thousands of federal workers who would be counted as unemployed. And once the shutdown is eventually over, it may take some time for jobs and other reports to be considered reliable again.

“It may take some time to get a ‘clean’ read on the economy,” economists at Bank of America Merrill Lynch told the AP last week.

Other reports that could be on the temporary chopping block are the Bureau of Economic Analysis’ gross-domestic product analysis for the fourth quarter of 2018 and the Census Bureau’s look at international trade. According to the Washington Post, if the shutdown stretches through the end of the month, it’s likely that reports on retail sales, housing, and personal income and spending will also be stalled.



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Jen Colletta
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at