Shutdown halts flow of US economic indicators

By Virginie Montet, AFP

WASHINGTON–The flow of official U.S. economic statistics choked up Tuesday, cut off by a partial government shutdown over a budget fight. Data on the world’s largest economy that economists, analysts and financial markets watch closely have been put on hold after Congress failed to reach a budget compromise by the Monday midnight deadline, leaving no operating cash for the new 2014 fiscal year that began Tuesday. That means especially that Friday’s jobs report for September, which analysts await with great anticipation for signs of the economy’s strength, and which the Federal Reserve studies to shape monetary policy, could be missing in action. On Tuesday morning, the first official data victim was the Department of Commerce’s report on construction spending in August, originally slated for release at 10 a.m. (1400 GMT). A message on the phone at the Commerce Department said: “If you leave a message I’ll be unable to respond until funding has been appropriated and the shutdown ends.” The Labor Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, which reports the nation’s gross domestic product and the monthly trade balance, shuttered its website. “Due to the lapse in government funding, will be unavailable until further notice. This includes access to all data and the e-File system.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which issues the crucial jobs data normally on the first Friday of the month, said its website would not be updated due to the shutdown.

“During the shutdown period BLS will not collect data, issue reports, or respond to public inquiries. Updates to the site will start again when the federal government resumes operations,” the BLS said. Deutsche Bank analysts said in a research note that there was a possibility that, if the government reopens ahead of Friday, the BLS could try to put the jobs data out. If not, they said, the employment report from private payrolls firm ADP, due Wednesday, will provide a substitute for the BLS data on job creation. But without the BLS numbers, “the trajectory of aggregate income growth (the product of workers, hours and wages) will remain largely unknown.” The Labor Department does plan to publish the weekly report on new claims for unemployment benefits as scheduled on Thursday, citing use of a contingency plan for a lapse in funding.