Department of Labor Locks Down Reporting of Employment Stats

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a division of the Department of Labor, announced changes to the way that the release of the new job market and employment statistics could be reported.

The changes, which go into effect on March 1, will bar electronic devices from the “lock-up” session where reporters have been able to view and write about the statistics 30 minutes before their release to the public. The new policies are in line with a recommendation from the Office of the Inspector General that was published in 2014.

Job market figures can and have shifted markets significantly, and thus the government carefully monitors the release of the data. The BLS post addressed to credentials news bureau chiefs (Law Street Media is not credentialed) explained the new policies. BLS Commissioner William Beach wrote ” Developments in high-speed algorithmic trading technology now give a notable competitive advantage to market participants who have even a few microseconds head start “

According to the new policies, advance-release lock-ups will still take place, but reporters will only be provided with a pen and paper to document their findings. The OIG report recommended that the BLS ” implement a strategy designed to eliminate any competitive advantage that news organizations present in the lock-up and/or their clients may have; or, absent a viable solution, consider discontinuing the use of the press lock-up that provides news organizations pre-release access.”

BLS did not specify which news organizations were able to gain a competitive advantage from early access to market data.

Reuters reported that the Commerce Department will adopt the same rules to govern the release of data from its market-watched statistical agencies, the Census Bureau and Bureau for Economic Analysis. The Federal Reserve did not specify if it would adopt the Department of Labor’s practices for the release of its data.

The Associated Press reported a concern that shutting out media from providing a direct feed to trading firms could cause the Labor Department’s website to crash., “Many high-frequency financial firms have been relying on news agencies to provide them with the data via computer lines. If those firms suddenly all besiege the departments’ websites for that data, it could create a logjam that might make the data inaccessible to the public.”