While much has been reported about the economic impact of the partial federal shutdown on federal workers, coverage of the impact on large and small businesses that are federal contractors has been limited to anecdotal examples. Why? Such statistics are hard to gather due to the shutdown.*


The partial federal shutdown, now in a record fourth week, means missed paychecks for more than 800,000 government workers. But it also is having a similar, negative impact on workers in private companies, large and small, that do business with affected agencies.

The larger federal contracts go to the larger contractors who can weather the shutdown storm. However, shutdowns may be creating more stresses at smaller companies.

66% | About two-thirds of contracts with federal agencies affected by the shutdown are less than $10,000 a week

According to a limited analysis* of government contractor data by The Washington Post, there are 10,000 companies that hold contracts with federal agencies affected by the government shutdown.

$200 million | The estimated weekly value of the work by federal contractors impacted by the partial shutdown.

Quote from the Washington Post

“No one knows how many workers are affected, and overall estimates of total federal contract workers range from hundreds of thousands to millions. It’s also unknown how many have had to stop work, but company and industry officials say financial pressures on contractors are building.”

What do federal contractors do?

Federal government contractors are the source for nearly every item and service the government purchases, including vehicles, books, and furniture.

Contractor-supplied services can involve supporting government offices and programs, from clerical and keyboarding work to budget analysis and specialized studies. Other contracts for services range from housekeeping and security for government-owned properties to research and development for space exploration.


Top five services and goods contracted by weekly dollar amount

*(Via Washington Post: Estimates for contract amounts with federal agencies affected by the shutdown are based on analysis of contracting data from USAspending.gov. The data is incomplete and not being updated during shut down.)

Chart: WashingtonPost Photograph: GettyImages

Update (1.18.2019): Updated to clarify that the number 10,000 refers to the number of companies that have contracts with the federal government. It is not he number of employees at those companies.