The U.S. Economy Is Flying Blind With a Sputtering Engine

Federal data shortage makes it harder to assess shutdown’s current damage, let alone chart an informed path forward

Things have gotten nasty between President Trump and congressional Democrats over the government shutdown. But there could be ways out of the current stalemate. WSJ's Gerald F. Seib explains. Photo: Getty

The partial shutdown of the U.S. government is simultaneously hitting the economy and constricting the flow of data by which to gauge how big the hit actually is. Think of it as the forecasting equivalent of flying through a storm without instruments. Flying by sight will be tricky for both investors and Federal Reserve policy makers.

First, one has to assess how much government spending will be curtailed by the furloughing of about 380,000 federal workers and the direct effects of those curbed costs. Next, take a stab at...