WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) -- U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder welcomed back those U.S. Department of Justice employees who were furloughed amid the government's 17-day shutdown.

In a letter to DOJ employees Thursday, Holder said he was "grateful" to welcome the entire department back to work.

"Those of you who were not able to work during the shutdown were greatly missed, and the efforts of those who were at work during this difficult period were truly appreciated," he wrote.

Holder said his top priority was to ensure that employees fully resume their work "as quickly as possible."

"The Department of Justice draws its strength from the expertise, hard work and tenacity of our nearly 115,000 employees," he wrote.

"All of you are essential to protecting the American people and to performing our critical law enforcement functions. Our collective work is absolutely crucial, and I don't want another day missed."

Holder said he regrets the "anxieties" and "hardships" the shutdown has caused.

He also said he would address the financial consequences of the lapse in the coming days.

When the shutdown began earlier this month, Holder called it "unnecessary" and "harmful."

Late Wednesday, federal lawmakers passed the Continuing Appropriations Act 2014, putting an end to the shutdown.

President Barack Obama signed the legislation early Thursday morning.

The bill funds the government until Jan. 15 and raises the debt ceiling to Feb. 7.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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