WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said on Tuesday it was permanently discontinuing the practise of releasing market-sensitive economic reports under embargo to the media to ensure fairness.
Early this year, BLS had sought to remove computers from a room it provided for coverage of embargoed economic reports under so-called lockups, but postponed the decision while negotiations continued with media organizations, including Reuters, AP and Bloomberg.
The lockup facility allowed journalists to prepare stories 30 to 60 minutes in advance of release, with the government controlling a communications switch to prevent an inadvertent early public transmission. Lockups, however, have been suspended since mid-March because of the coronavirus crisis, with reports posted live on the various websites.
“Effective June 3, 2020, the department will permanently discontinue media lock-ups for all releases regardless of whether the current restrictions in place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic remain necessary as of that date,” BLS Commissioner William Beach said in a statement.
“Discontinuation of the lock-up best ensures the equitable and timely dissemination of statistical information consistent with the Office of Management and Budget guidance. Continuing security, resource, and equity concerns also outweigh any benefits of the press lockup process.”
BLS publishes the closely watched monthly employment report, as well as reports on productivity, import prices, employment costs and consumer and producer prices.
The Commerce Department also used the BLS lockup facility for reports published by its Bureau of Economic Analysis and Census Bureau, including data on gross domestic product, retail sales, consumer spending and housing starts.
Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Alistair Bell