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Government Shutdown Means No Official Labor Report; Private Survey Suggests 166,000 Jobs Added

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The government shutdown that began Monday night and is now in its fourth full day means that lots of official data collection, analysis and reporting that happens each month has now stopped. This includes the monthly jobs reports issued by the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Not being able to measure the data probably won’t have any direct effect on the economy, but it might affect people’s perceptions. A good jobs report (over 200,000, for example) tends to give people a positive view of how things are going, while a negative report (below 100,000) often leads to plenty of worrisome news stories.

All of this attention on the monthly jobs reports may be misplaced, though. There are significant concerns with each month’s accuracy, for one. The initial monthly numbers tend to be off by around 90,000, on average. That’s a huge asterisk. With each successive month, the jobs numbers from previous reports are revised upward or downward as Labor Department researchers dig deeper into the data to get a fuller picture. They eventually settle on a much more accurate employment assessment several months after the initial numbers come out.

The private payroll firm ADP also releases a monthly jobs report, strictly of non-government employment. Yesterday’s report showed employers adding 166,000 positions, slightly below forecasters’ expectations but, like the BLS reports, it is subject to subsequent revision in the coming months. (ADP’s August report of 176,000 was lowered to 159,000.) This would indicate that the economy is steadily continuing its recovery, but it is a tepid, slower-than-everyone-would-like recovery.

The current government shutdown certainly isn’t helping employment or consumer confidence, and as Congress inches closer to breaching the debt ceiling in a few weeks, things could get even worse before they get much better.

[USA Today, Fiscal Times, WSJ, N.Y. Times]

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