U.S. Labor Department to End Economic-Data Lockups Permanently

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(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Labor Department said Tuesday it will permanently end the practice of giving news media early looks at market-moving economic data, after suspending the pre-briefings during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Continuing security, resource, and equity concerns” outweigh “any benefits of the press lockup process,” Bureau of Labor Statistics Commissioner William Beach said in a letter to news organizations.

With so-called lockups suspended since March because of the pandemic, “the media demonstrated their ability to produce informed and accurate articles within minutes of the electronic release to the BLS website despite not having early access to the data at all,” Beach wrote.

The Labor Department had initially announced in January that it would ban computers from the room where journalists receive advance access to major economic reports such as employment and inflation figures, in an effort to ensure a level playing field.

The government put the plan on hold after a coalition of media organizations, including Bloomberg News, raised concern that the proposal would limit the wide distribution of key economic data to the general public.

Then, in March, the Labor Department suspended the lockups as offices began shutting to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, while saying that the move didn’t constitute a change in the lockup policy. Journalists have since covered reports including employment and gross domestic product as they’ve been posted on government websites, rather than from the room at the Labor Department.

Discussions with news organizations over the release policy have “not resulted in identification of a solution that retains lock-ups while also providing equitable and timely access for all interested users and ensuring data security,” Beach wrote.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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