With no end in sight to the partial government shutdown, which stretched into its third week on Saturday, the U.S. economy could appear to lose jobs in January for the first time in nearly a decade.
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That’s largely because about 800,000 government employees were still furloughed on Thursday, which is when the household survey that’s used to calculate unemployment starts (it usually covers the 12th of each month, which is on Saturday). In the survey, they will say they’re not working. The Department of Labor will release the payroll data for January on Feb. 1.
According to Kevin Hassett, chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, the White House will adjust for the furloughed workers to better gauge what the employment situation is, sans shutdown.
“So when we see the January jobs number, it could be a big negative,” Hassett told reporters last week. “But it would be because of the furloughed workers, who are ultimately going to get paid.”
The 20-day shutdown began on Dec. 22 after lawmakers failed to reach a bipartisan funding deal because of a dispute about how much money to allocate to a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Although three-fourths of the government remains open, there are still hundreds of thousands of furloughed employees affected by it. A shutdown could also put negative pressure on the U.S. credit rating, which reflects a country’s or businesses’ creditworthiness and the likelihood it will default, according to ratings agency Fitch.
“If this shutdown continues to March 1 and the debt ceiling becomes a problem several months later, we may need to start thinking about the policy framework, the inability to pass a budget ... whether all of that is consistent with triple-A," Fitch's global head of sovereign ratings James McCormack, said on Wednesday, as reported by Reuters.