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ECONOMISTS SAY DAMAGE FROM SHUTDOWN IS COSTLY

WASHINGTON - The government shutdown that ended this week will cost the U.S. economy several billion dollars, according to estimates by economic research firms.

But the affiliated damage - like the undermining of consumer and business confidence - will be far greater, economists said, especially combined with the financial effects of the near-breach of the country's statutory debt ceiling.

When the government shut down Oct. 1, permit offices across the country stopped accepting fees, contractors stopped receiving checks and research projects were put on hold. Such disruptions come with a price tag, although it will be small in the context of the $3.5 trillion the federal government spends every year.

It might take months for the Obama administration to come up with a thorough accounting of the direct cost of putting much of the government out of business and then reopening it.

"The three weeks of government shutdown will cost the economy $3.1 billion in gross domestic product from lost government services," estimated Paul Edelstein and Doug Handler of IHS Global Insight, an economic research firm. "There will also be some impact from lost private-sector jobs tied to the shutdown, as well as a loss of consumer and business confidence resulting from the debt-ceiling showdown."

Edelstein and Handler added that the shutdown had delayed the data necessary to evaluate the shutdown: "The exact impact on the rest of the economy will be hard to measure until delayed economic data are released."

The government has lost out on millions of dollars that would have been spent at shuttered parks, caves, monuments and museums, with the National Park Service putting its toll at $450,000 a day.

Another major cost is related to payments to contractors and other service providers that the government missed. Some businesses might be due interest because of the late checks, or might request more compensation because of the disruption.

But the heftiest cost will be paying federal workers for time they spent idle - about 800,000 workers were barred from working. Some offices might have to increase overtime to rush work that did not get done.

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