Apec 2013: US says shutdown hurting business and data gathering

NUSA DUA, Indonesia (AFP) - The impacts of the US government shutdown are cascading into the business sector and into vital collection of economic data, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker warned on Sunday.

The first shutdown in 17 years has directly affected hundreds of thousands of government employees, but Ms Pritzker said companies were also starting to hurt.

"The shutdown is not good for business. It's not good for the economy," Ms Pritzker told reporters at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum on the Indonesian island of Bali, which President Barack Obama has been forced to skip.

"And we need to move in with the business of doing business in the United States. So, I am hopeful this gets resolved soon. It's obviously having an impact."

Ms Pritzker said one big problem was businesses could no longer access vital data about the economy that is normally posted on the commerce department's website.

But the website has been taken offline because staff who run it are not working.

"We're a huge source of data for American business and that is a problem... It's affecting businesses and it's affecting their ability to get data," she said.

Ms Pritzker recounted the story of her son, an analyst in New York, who could not access retail sales data that is normally accessible online.

"He said: 'I need retail sales numbers and your website is not functioning right now,'" Ms Pritzker said.

Nevertheless, Ms Pritzker said she was an optimist and believed a solution to the shutdown would be achieved soon.

The US government closed all but its essential operations on Tuesday when Republican lawmakers refused to approve money for government operations without first delaying or defunding the new health care law, commonly known as Obamacare.

Mr Obama is refusing to negotiate with Republicans over the budget issues until they pass a temporary bill to reopen the government, and has abandoned a planned tour of Asia taking in the Apec summit while the crisis plays out.

He said they must also agree to raise the US$16.7 trillion (S$20.8 trillion) US statutory borrowing limit - without which Washington could default on its debts for the first time ever starting on October 17.