Retailers and shippers still in the dark despite shutdown deal


Despite the temporary end to the government shutdown announced late Friday, the U.S. Census Bureau failed today to release its report on manufacturers’ durable goods shipments, inventories, and orders for the month of December 2018.

“If you’re a shipper, you likely use the data releases only in the sense that it shapes the outlook for the economy.” said Ibrahiim Bayan, chief economist at FreightWaves. “If you’re a retailer, you’re interested in how the retail economy did because it will shape how it might do over the next few months. If you don’t have that report for a month, you work off of what you estimate happened.”

According to the Census Bureau, the durable goods report surveys monthly statistical data on current economic conditions and implications of future production commitments in the manufacturing sector. Data is collected from manufacturers that have more than $500 million in annual goods shipments. The survey covers 89 industrial categories.

The Census Bureau is scheduled to release the full report – manufacturers’ shipments, inventories, and orders – on February 4th, assuming the backlog caused by the shutdown does not delay it further.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a business-oriented lobbying group, expressed concern prior to Friday’s agreement that the shutdown has had a lasting effect on the U.S. economy, joining over six hundred national and subnational institutions in a coalition letter imploring the President and Congress to end the impasse.

“The current shutdown – now the longest in American history – is causing significant and in some cases lasting damage to families, businesses, and the economy as a whole,” the group wrote on Thursday. “The harm is well-documented and continues to compound with each passing day.”

Other government agencies that release economic data have also missed reporting deadlines.

“Due to the lapse in Congressional Appropriations for the Fiscal Year of 2019, the U.S. Department of Commerce is closed,” said the Department of Commerce’s website.

Funding for the Department expired on December 21 and the organization shut down the next day. One agency within the department closed by the shutdown was the Bureau of Economic Analysis, which provides macroeconomic and industry statistics for the federal government.

However, the Labor Department remained open during the shutdown, allowing its data-reporting agency, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, to continue releasing reports on U.S. labor development. As a result, the December jobs report was released as scheduled on January 4th.

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