What Happens to Data in a Shutdown?

Good news and bad news

All of us working with data often rely on federally provided datasets to do our work. So what does a government shutdown mean for us? There is good news and bad news. The good news is that this shutdown has not been as impactful as the 2013 shutdown and that most datasets are still available. The bad news is that the length of the shutdown could affect the timing of updates to datasets. But don’t worry too much, we have some solutions if anything becomes unavailable and can help navigate which datasets may be delayed.

U.S. Census Bureau website during the 2013 shutdown.

U.S. Census Bureau website during the 2013 shutdown.

In 2013, the Federal government shutdown resulted in the shuttering of many public data warehouses, including the U.S. Census’ American FactFinder. That episode highlighted the important role that Federal agencies have in the daily work of urban planners and others in state and local government.

Current NOAA.gov website.

Current NOAA.gov website.

In the 2018-19 version of the Federal government shutdown, the American FactFinder and several other important data resources remain available. The bad news of this shutdown isn’t availability but that updates to websites and datasets are being interrupted. An ominous warning appears on Federal websites that “due to a lapse in Federal funding, this website is not being updated.” Some sites - including NOAA’s research and climate sites - are inaccessible during the shutdown.

As reported by Pew, many of the release schedules for data from the BEA, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, and the Census Bureau (excluding work on the 2020 Decennial Census) have been impacted by the shutdown. Many critical statistics, like the release of quarterly and annual GDP for 2018, are impacted.

If the continued shutdown once again puts your access to Federal datasets at risk, mySidewalk’s ever-growing data library is always available for you, regardless of whether the Federal government is operating. We also recommend the NHGIS at the Minnesota Population Center and your state and local government data warehouses as potential sources of federal data.

If you have any questions about the federal data that is important to you contact our team at [email protected].

mySidewalk is a city intelligence tool that makes it simple to track, analyze, and communicate progress on citywide goals using data. To learn more about how you can build dashboards, just like this one, using pre-loaded data available in the mySidewalk tool or by uploading data from your local community, visit the mySidewalk website. You work hard for your data. What's it doing for you?