How The Shutdown Is Hurting The Housing Market

by Alan Greenblatt; October 09, 201312:15 PM

If interest rates go up due to the fear or reality of a debt default that would have major consequences for real estate sales.If interest rates go up due to the fear or reality of a debt default that would have major consequences for real estate sales.

Steven Senne/AP

As with so many other types of economic activity, the government shutdown is causing more fear than actual harm in the housing market thus far.

But that doesn’t mean things won’t start going wrong in the very near future.

Various federal agencies play greater or lesser roles in real estate transactions. With most of them sidelined, simple matters such as closing on mortgages are becoming more complicated.

“It’s going to add up pretty quickly, because loans can’t be closed in many cases,” says Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s Analytics, a financial research organization. “The damage is going to start to mount and in a few days it’s going to be a significant problem for the housing market.” Continue reading “How The Shutdown Is Hurting The Housing Market”

In Focus: Who Faces Furloughs?

In Focus: Who Faces Furloughs?

Many government offices are entirely empty due to the shutdown.
Many government offices are entirely empty due to the shutdown. 06photo/Shutterstock.com

During a government shutdown, federal agencies decide which employees to furlough and which to keep on the job. Excepted employees include workers “who are performing emergency work involving the safety of human life or the protection of property or performing certain other types of excepted work,” according to furlough guidance from the Office of Personnel Management. In other words, they aren’t furloughed. Employees who are not funded through annual appropriations are exempt from unpaid leave if the government shuts down.

How many employees an agency furloughs during a government shutdown varies, and tends to depend on mission. At some departments, including Veterans Affairs, most of the workforce stays on the job. At the Housing and Urban Development Department, however, the opposite is true: Most employees are furloughed. Continue reading “In Focus: Who Faces Furloughs?”

Economists Say Shutdown Will Hurt, But Hard To Add It Up

by Marilyn Geewax

October 01, 2013 5:14 AM

Government workers protest the possibility of a federal shutdown in Chicago. Nearly 100 employees from federal agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Housing and Urban Development rallied in a downtown plaza Monday.

Government workers protest the possibility of a federal shutdown in Chicago. Nearly 100 employees from federal agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Housing and Urban Development rallied in a downtown plaza Monday.M. Spencer Green/AP

After weeks of wondering what would happen, Americans now know:

1. Congress missed the midnight funding deadline for the new fiscal year, triggering disruptions in government operations.

2. That will slow economic growth, at least in the short term.

But just how far the damage will go is far from clear. Economists say they can’t refine their predictions because they have no idea how long the shutdown might last or how many federal workers may be furloughed. Continue reading “Economists Say Shutdown Will Hurt, But Hard To Add It Up”

Many Federal Employees Are Facing Second Set of Furloughs in Six-Month Span

Many Federal Employees Are Facing Second Set of Furloughs in Six-Month Span

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The Defense Department will furlough roughly 400,000 civilian employees on Tuesday — nearly half of the governmentwide furloughs that will take effect in less than 24 hours if the government shuts down.

More than 800,000 federal civilian employees and as many as 1 million workers will go on temporary unpaid leave beginning Oct. 1 if Congress fails to reach an agreement on funding the government by midnight. Agencies posted their contingency plans online Friday and Monday, as the threat of a shutdown became more likely. Employees who are furloughed, or “non-excepted,” will receive official furlough notices on Tuesday if the government closes.

Federal agencies decide which employees to furlough and which to keep on the job during a government shutdown, though they are required to follow the law’s guidance on definitions. Excepted employees include workers “who are performing emergency work involving the safety of human life or the protection of property or performing certain other types of excepted work,” according to furlough guidance from the Office of Personnel Management. In other words, they aren’t furloughed. Employees who are not funded through annual appropriations are “exempt” from unpaid leave if the government shuts down.

How many employees an agency furloughs during a government shutdown varies, and tends to depend on mission. In some departments, like Veterans Affairs, 95 percent of the workforce stays on the job. At the Housing and Urban Development Department, however, 96 percent of the workforce will go on furlough.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Monday sent Defense personnel a message on the potential shutdown and the department’s preparations. “Your supervisor will provide more information, but I want you to know that furlough decisions are dictated solely by the law, which only permits us to direct civilians to work if they are required to continue supporting military operations or if they are required to protect DoD personnel and property,” Hagel wrote. “The furloughs are in no way a reflection of the importance of your work, the hard effort you put forth every day, or your dedicated service to our department and our nation.”

Still, the terms “essential” and “nonessential” employees, which are part of the vernacular and not the official government language related to shutdowns, have damaged the already suffering morale of the federal workforce. And for thousands of federal employees, this could be the second round of furloughs in less than a year. About 650,000 Defense civilians were forced to take six days of unpaid leave this summer because of sequestration.

The bulk of the workforce at other agencies, including HUD, the Internal Revenue Service and the Environmental Protection Agency, also will be hit with additional furloughs if the government shuts down. Those agencies shut down for a few days over the summer because of sequestration and most of their employees will not work in a government shutdown.

“This is a workforce which has endured three years of a pay freeze; there has been virtually no hiring, so workloads are increasing dramatically; many already have faced unpaid days because of sequestration; and now they face more unpaid furloughs because of a shutdown that does not need to happen,” National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley said. “This brinksmanship has got to stop, both for our country and for the dedicated workers who serve the public as federal employees.”

At least one agency will close completely if the government shuts down on Tuesday: the Merit Systems Protection Board. The processing of appeals and other pleadings will be suspended and hearings postponed. “No staff will be available in any MSPB office to answer inquiries during the entirety of a shutdown,” the agency said in a statement. “MSPB e-Appeal Online system also will not be available.” The board had been working through a flood of appeals from furloughs related to sequestration.

 

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Furlough Friday Follows July 4 Holiday

Furlough Friday Follows July 4 Holiday

Pavel L Photo and Video/Shutterstock.com

Thousands of federal employees will have a four-day weekend for the July 4 holiday.

The Environmental Protection Agency, Housing and Urban Development Department and Internal Revenue Service will remain closed on Friday, July 5, to meet budget demands imposed by sequestration. The “majority” of employees at the Office of Management and Budget also will be on furlough this Friday, according to an agency spokeswoman. Continue reading “Furlough Friday Follows July 4 Holiday”