Next Score View the next score

    Lack of jobs report throws pundits for a loop

    The jobs report is a ‘‘flashlight into the dense forest of global economic information,’’ says analyst Diane Swonk (right).
    2012 file/associated Press
    The jobs report is a ‘‘flashlight into the dense forest of global economic information,’’ says analyst Diane Swonk (right).

    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 insights.

    It happens the first Friday of the month at 8:30 a.m.


    Except this Friday.

    Get Talking Points in your inbox:
    An afternoon recap of the day’s most important business news, delivered weekdays.
    Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

    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.

    Yet for a subculture of Americans whose professional lives are tied to the monthly jobs report, its absence may be disorienting.

    ‘‘Economists and journalists will have some withdrawal pains,’’ suggests Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics and a fixture on cable-TV gabfests after the jobs reports are released.

    Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial and another regular television presence on the morning of the jobs reports, jokes that she won’t have to get up so early Friday. 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 US economy.

    ‘‘The economic data everybody looks at all month long leads up to a day like Friday,’’ says Jonathan D. Corpina, a managing partner at Meridian Equity Partners. ‘‘Without having that core ingredient to your economic calendar, the dish really isn’t going to be done.’’


    Friday’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 7.3 percent.

    Without the jobs data, it isn’t only Wall Street that will have to act without its usual information. The Federal Reserve will almost surely put off any move to slow its bond purchases when it meets this month.

    So can stock analysts just take Friday off?

    Joel Naroff of Naroff Economic Advisors in Holland, Pa., mused that he might as well head to his weekend place on the Jersey Shore. ‘‘Employment Fridays are always an incredibly busy time for me,’’ Naroff says. ‘‘This one is going to be strangely quiet.’’