Government shutdown leaves industry short on data

Government shutdown leaves industry short on data

By Bobby Elliott, Resource Recycling

Oct. 10, 2013

With the U.S. government shutdown now in its second week and a possible debt ceiling crisis looming, it remains unclear how deeply the Congressional stalemate will affect the recycling industry.

Part of the uncertainty has to with the absence of crucial economic data. Government figures on exports and other areas is information "the industry has come to rely on," Scott Horne of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) said in a letter to ISRI members.

As government agencies have had to rely on skeleton staffs during the shutdown, labor statistics released through the Bureau of Labor Statistics and economic data released through the Census have not been published. According to the Census website, all services will be unavailable until "further notice."

While day-to-day recycling operations will continue to run during the shutdown, major economic challenges could await the industry. An economic forecast released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Tuesday reduced expectations for global economic growth in 2013 to 2.9 percent in light of the federal budget and debt crises. In addition, a recent Gallup poll shows overall economic confidence in the U.S. has experienced its steepest weeklong drop since the dawn of the recession in 2008.

Since Oct. 1 when the shutdown began, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has dropped 390 points, or 2.6 percent. The Nasdaq Composite, meanwhile, has fallen 3.8 percent.

While EPA chief Gina McCarthy is reporting to work at EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C., less than 7 percent of EPA's 16,204 employees are considered "essential" and able to work, according to a Reuters report. Deadlines for proposals and research projects, including those involving recycling, will almost certainly be delayed as a result of the shutdown. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has also closed, furloughing a vast amount of its workforce.

Washington, D.C. managed to avoid a complete shutdown of city operations after Congress voted to fund basic city services, including waste management and recycling. That funding, however, is set to run out, according to Mayor Vincent C. Gray, who is calling on Congress to permit the city to use local tax dollars to begin funding its services. "Families in Chicago, Cincinnati and Las Vegas are not worried that their local governments won’t be able to maintain basic services like schools, police and fire protection, or trash collection – and neither should families here in the District of Columbia,” Mayor Gray wrote in a letter to President Barack Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

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