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Policy: Labor

The week ahead in economics: Budget deadline, phones on flights, and Bitcoin

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Congress,Labor,Debt Ceiling,PennAve,Joseph Lawler,Economy,Budgets and Deficits,Technology,Bitcoin

Friday is the deadline for the budget conference committee mandated by the debt ceiling deal to reach an agreement. The top negotiators, Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington and Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, are considering a deal that would lift some of the automatic sequestration spending cuts for the next few years in return for raising certain government fees.

If the conferees are unable to reach an agreement, the House will adjourn for the holidays without a budget in place. But the real-world impact of a missed deadline would be "absolutely inconsequential and insignificant," writes Qorvis Communications' budget expert Stan Collender, who notes that both houses would have to vote on any deal regardless, meaning the real deadline is in January, when government funding will lapse unless Congress moves to extend it.

Looming over the budget negotiations will be a more immediate deadline for the long-term unemployment insurance program. More than a million long-term unemployed are set to lose benefits on Dec. 28 if Congress does not reauthorize long-term emergency unemployment compensation. Democrats have asked that funding for the program be included in the conference recommendations, but have hesitated to make that a sticking point of the deal. A one-year extension of the program would cost $26 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Four federal regulatory agencies will meet on Tuesday to vote on a final version of the Volcker Rule, a key provision of the 2010 Dodd-Frank regulatory overhaul that would prevent banks from engaging in trading with deposits for profit. The Securities and Exchange Commission also will vote on the rule soon.

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission will meet to discuss eliminating the ban on cellphone use during flights. FCC commissioners also will appear before a House Energy and Commerce Committee oversight panel that same day.

The value of the digital peer-to-peer currency Bitcoin continues to fluctuate wildly. The price of a single Bitcoin fell drastically in the first week of December as China's central bank banned banks from holding Bitcoins and then the country's largest search engine said it would no longer take the currency as payment. Bitcoin fell from well above $1,000 to the low $700 range over the weekend before climbing back near $900 Monday morning. Demand for Bitcoin has been driven by Chinese users in recent weeks, making the recent crackdown by the government a test for the technology.

On Tuesday the Bureau of Labor Statistics will release the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey for October. The report, known as JOLTS, gives a finer picture of the labor market. Economists expect the number of job openings in the U.S. to remain steady at about 3.9 million. This data is closely watched by officials at the Federal Reserve for information about the job scenario that isn't contained in the monthly jobs report, which had the unemployment rate falling to 7 percent in its latest release Friday.

And on Thursday the Census Bureau will issue its estimate of retail spending for November, which will give an initial indication at the strength of holiday retail sales that began after Thanksgiving.

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