Jobs Day: No Jobs Report

A blog about business and economics.
Oct. 4 2013 9:25 AM

Jobs Day: No Jobs Report

Today would ordinarily be "Jobs Day," the relase of the Bureau of Labor Statistics' once a month Employment Situation Report which updates us with both the non-farm payrolls number (from the establishment survey) and the unemployment rate (from the household survey) except today there will be no release because the government is shut down.

This is a great example of the kind of insidious harm that a government shutdown can do. Even as a data junkie, you have to be honest that skipping one month's jobs data isn't a big deal. In fact, if the BLS got a 12-sided die and simply at random suppressed one out of every twelve jobs report then life would go on. But skipping two jobs reports in a row could be a real problem. Skipping three or four in a row risks very serious issues in the economy. The Federal Reserve and other officials rely on credible data to make macroeconomic stabilization policy. What's more, private sector businesses rely on the fact that the Federal Reserve will have credible data to give them some background confidence in overall economic conditions. If we were flying blind all the time—and knew we were flying blind all the time—we'd have a much less table economy.

Advertisement

And one could say the same for the whole range of government data series. Take any one release—housing starts for March, chicken prices for August, etc.—and its impact is trivial. But in the aggregate this steady drip-drip-drip of credible statistical information is an important public good. If the government didn't do it, private parties could try to fill the gap. But it's a classic case of high fixed costs and low marginal costs, where private provision will lead to lots of deadweight loss.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

Jurisprudence

Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

My Father Was James Brown. I Watched Him Beat My Mother. Then I Married Someone Like Him.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 17 2014 12:02 PM Here It Is: The Flimsiest Campaign Attack Ad of 2014, Which Won't Stop Running
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 17 2014 12:13 PM “For a While Liquidity Led to Stupidity”
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 17 2014 12:19 PM Early Cancer Hospitals Were Modeled on French Castles, Served Champagne
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Behold
Sept. 17 2014 11:06 AM Inside the Exclusive World of Members-Only Clubs
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 11:14 AM How Does That Geometry Problem Make You Feel? Computer tutors that can read students’ emotions.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 17 2014 11:18 AM A Bridge Across the Sky
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.