US job growth likely picked up a bit in September, suggesting the economy enjoyed rising momentum before an acrimonious budget fight in Washington took some of the wind out of its sails.
Nonfarm payrolls are expected to have increased by 180,000 workers, a step up from August's gain of 169,000, according to a Reuters survey of economists. The unemployment rate is seen having held steady at a near five-year low of 7.3 percent.
The Labor Department will release its closely watched monthly employment report on Tuesday, more than two weeks later than originally scheduled because of the partial shutdown of the federal government earlier this month.
The data regularly sets the tone for global financial markets. Economists, however, said the shutdown has lessened its importance, with officials at the Federal Reserve likely to hold off any decision on scaling back the U.S. central bank's bond buying until the extent of the economic damage from the budget fight is clearer.
"They haven't had good information on the economy. We know there is an extra layer of drags due to the shutdown. The Fed is going to take a cautious approach," said Robert Dye, chief economist at Comerica in Dallas.
Fed officials will meet next week to discuss monetary policy, on Oct. 29-30. They surprised markets last month by sticking to their $85 billion per month bond-buying pace, saying they wanted to see more evidence of a strong recovery.
Now, many economists think the Fed will hold off on scaling back economic stimulus until next year.
"We continue to believe that the first tapering will not be seen before March," said Michelle Girard, chief economist at RBS in Stamford, Connecticut.
Economists estimate the 16-day government shutdown shaved as much as 0.6 percentage point off annualized fourth-quarter gross domestic product, through reduced government output and damage to both consumer and business confidence.
They fear that lawmakers will engage in another bruising round early next year when Congress must agree on a budget to fund the government and once again raise the nation's borrowing limit.
HOPES FOR FALL IN UNEMPLOYMENT
If job growth accelerates as expected in September, it would top the average gain of