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Reliability of U.S. Economic Data Could Take Hit From Virus

  • Potential to depress response rates for employment surveys
  • Assessing economic impact from data may prove more challenging
Operations Inside The Wabash National Corp. Manufacturing Facility As Factory Production In U.S. Rises
Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

The coronavirus outbreak stands to wreak havoc not just on the U.S. economy, but also on the ability of statistical agencies to produce reliable figures on key data including jobs and inflation.

Americans may be reluctant to agree to an in-person interview on their employment status with a government worker. Stretched businesses might decide to skip responding to the voluntary payrolls survey. Data collectors checking consumer prices could find stores shuttered or shelves cleaned out. Economists who compile the reports may have difficulty accessing their regular computing tools from home.