WASHINGTON — The latest victims of the government’s partial shutdown: policy wonks, politicians and TV talking heads who are losing their monthly opportunity to dissect the jobs report issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The ritual unfolds every month: The jobs report comes out, and Wall Street panics or exults. Political advocates spin. And economic analysts crowd cable-TV to offer us their insights.
It happens the first Friday of the month at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.
The government’s partial shutdown means the September jobs report is being postponed. The workers who produce it aren’t deemed “essential,” which is why they’re among the 800,000 federal employees being furloughed.
They aren’t doctors treating wounded soldiers at military hospitals or air traffic controllers ensuring that planes take off and land safely. They’re statisticians.
Yet for a subculture of Americans whose professional lives are tied to the monthly jobs report, its absence might be disorienting.
Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial and a regular television presence on the morning of the jobs reports, jokes that she won’t have to get up so early today. Yet she’ll feel the loss. The jobs report is a “flashlight into the dense forest of global economic information,” Swonk says. “We’ve turned the flashlight off.”
Wall Street traders whose computers are normally primed to spring into action milliseconds after the report is issued will have to manage without it. “Most investors I talk to are taking a wait-and-see attitude,” says Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank. “I don’t think anybody is crying in their beer.”
Wall Street bases its buy-and-sell decisions on countless data — from economic growth in the United States and abroad to corporate profits, manufacturing output and home sales. But the jobs report tends to occupy center stage. Job growth drives consumer spending, which fuels most of the U.S. economy.
CNBC issued a statement saying it’s “still planning a big show on Friday” focused on the uncertainty from the shutdown and the “incomplete picture on where the jobs market currently stands.”
Today’s report was expected to show that the economy added 180,000 jobs in September, slightly more than the modest 169,000 in August. The unemployment rate was expected to remain at a still-high 7.3 percent.