Why Even a Short Shutdown Hurts the Government

Why Even a Short Shutdown Hurts the Government


Most experts say a government shutdown has only modestly negative effects on the broader economy. S&P economists estimated recently that a shutdown would cost the economy about $6 billion a week, but those reductions in GDP growth are typically made up for in the following quarters.

That doesn’t mean there’s no cost to shutting the government down.

Closing agencies and sending non-essential employees home — or even just threatening to do so — results in thousands of hours of lost productivity throughout the federal bureaucracy.

Dan Kanninen, who served as the White House liaison at the Environmental Protection Agency during the Obama administration, when shutdowns were a constant threat, told Mother Jones, “It’s like if you were a homeowner but literally every month you had to decide if you were going to move on the first of the month or not. All you’re doing is deciding whether to box stuff up, do you have a moving company, all of that.”

According to the Office of Budget and Management, the 16-day shutdown in 2013 cost roughly $2 billion in lost productivity from the 850,000 federal employees on furlough. That puts the cost of lost productivity at roughly $125 million per day.