Usually investors ignore a monthly jobs report at their own risk. Despite its flaws, it remains the most important gauge for the economy's health and most revealing barometer for the Federal Reserve's actions. But Friday's statistics will be clouded by the October government shutdown.
Already, the report will be a week late. Before the furlough of its economists and data crunchers, the Bureau of Labor Statistics had scheduled the October Employment Situation to be released Nov. 1. The 17-day government slowdown also will show up in the results out at the end of the new week.
Expect a spike in the number of people without work, especially for temporary reasons. This category captures the hundreds of thousands of federal government workers, and possibly government contractors, who couldn't go to work during the slowdown but expected to be called back. Presumably, these people were not looking for work during their temporary unemployment. Usually, to be considered officially unemployed, a worker must be looking for a job, but that's not the case for the temporary unemployed. This will affect the unemployment rate reported Friday.
To estimate the number of jobs created -- or lost -- government data collectors survey companies. But the government furloughs delayed the questionnaire. Usually, about 3 out of every 4 companies asked will tell the government how their job counts changed. It likely will be fewer companies making up Friday's data, thanks to less time to get the responses.
The October jobs report won't be meaningless, but it won't meaningfully contribute to our understanding of our complex economy either.
Tom Hudson, financial journalist, hosts "The Sunshine Economy" on WLRN-FM in Miami. He is the former co-anchor and managing editor of "Nightly Business Report" on public television.