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Shutdown Employment Update: 800,000 Furloughs and Counting

As a result of the government shutdown, the Bureau of Labor Statistics did not release its monthly jobs report that it was scheduled to release today. Even without the BLS jobs report we know that the government shutdown is changing the jobs picture dramatically. 

At least 800,000 federal workers are being furloughed without pay for the duration of the shutdown. Some of these workers have already applied for unemployment benefits, which would need to be returned if they are later issued back pay. Unemployment insurance eligibility requirements vary by state, but in general, employees will be eligible for unemployment if their pay is withheld for seven or more consecutive days. In states with high numbers of federal workers, unemployment offices are already struggling to process the influx of applications

Beyond the dramatic national numbers, stories have poured in from across the country about the number of government programs and the people they serve affected by the shutdown. The shuttering of programs not only strains the lives of already vulnerable families but also causes the loss of wages and jobs for the people who run those programs. 

For example, as a result of the shutdown, states are forced to close 23 Head Start programs that serve 19,000 children and employ thousands of staff. The program’s budget was already cut by $405 million in 2013 as a result of sequestration, eliminating service for 57,265 children and jobs for 18,000 staff. 84 percent of the staff in the Administration for Children and Families [PDF], who administer Head Start, child care, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, child welfare services, and many other programs that serve low-income and vulnerable families, have been furloughed during the shutdown. 

The shutdown also directly affects workers for state governments that are paid through federal government funding. Here are just a few of the many temporary layoffs that were announced this week: 

  • The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services furloughed 337 employees this week because of the shutdown and the department expects that up to 4,5000 of their employees could be furloughed or have their hours reduced depending on how long the shutdown lasts. 
  • In Little Rock, Arkansas, employees at the Our House homeless shelter who make only $11,000 annually will not be receiving their paychecks. 
  • Utah expects to furlough 270 employees of county health departments
  • Iowa Workforce Development is furloughing 69 employees, including those who work in OSHA inspection and services to disabled veterans. 

Without the monthly jobs report, we can’t tell you the percentage of women of color that are unemployed or the share of new women’s jobs that are in low-wage sectors like we usually do. We can tell you that any economic progress is incredibly fragile, as is economic security for the hundreds of thousands of workers impacted by the shutdown. We won’t begin to know the full impact of the shutdown until the government reopens, we wait for the full effects to be felt, and we get our data back. 

It's time for change, and we must act now. Time's up.