Shutdown could deliver ‘big negative’ to jobs and GDP, White House says

Trump economic adviser Kevin Hassett downplays effects of shuttering cabinet departments

Garbage overflows a trash can on the National Mall across from the White House on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019. The National Park Service, which is responsible for trash removal, is not operating due to the government shut down. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The partial government shutdown will likely deliver a “big negative” to the first jobs report of 2019 and trigger a GDP decline, a senior economic adviser to President Donald Trump said Thursday.

Kevin Hassett, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, also tried to downplay the effects the shuttering of nine Cabinet departments and other smaller agencies will have on the U.S. economy, including increasingly volatile stock indexes.

“So, what we’ll say if we were to see that negative [jobs impact] number is, ‘Well, sure it was negative this, but if you adjust for the furlough, it looks like another plus-200 month,’” he told reporters outside the West Wing after a television interview.

Hassett also did some back-of-the-envelope math in estimating a partial shutdown through next week would bring down the gross domestic product by about one-tenth its current level.

American stock markets dropped again Thursday morning after Apple reported slower sales due to the Trump administration’s tariffs on China, leading to declined sales there. U.S. and global markets have been on a roller coaster ride lately, with sharp drops and steep comebacks.

But Hassett said he doubts the partial shutdown is responsible for more recent market drops.

“I think when we’ve seen the markets move a heck of a lot on shutdown news in the past, it’s because the shutdown has been coincident with the debt limit negotiations, and the debt limit negotiations really raises the stakes,” he said.

“But right now, it’s just a shutdown for a quarter of the government and, you know, they are leaving the national parks mostly open,” Hassett added. “So the private-sector repercussions seem like they are going to be pretty small.”

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