News outlets request Labor Dept. back off new restrictions on economic data

News outlets request Labor Dept. back off new restrictions on economic data
© Greg Nash

The Associated Press, Bloomberg News and Reuters joined other news outlets Tuesday in asking the Labor Department to reconsider a recent decision that would limit access to government economic data.

The Labor Department last month announced that beginning March 1, computers would be taken out of a secure room, known as a "lockup room," where journalists are given early access to market-moving reports measuring employment, inflation and consumer spending.
 
The lockups provide reporters time to review the data and seek any clarification from government officials while writing stories on computers that have been disconnected from the internet. The stories are then published when the economic reports are posted online for the general public.
 
Journalists entering the secure room must surrender their cellphones and other electronic devices to prevent any sharing of the data before its public release.

In a joint letter, the five news organizations argued that removing computers from the room would not achieve the stated goal of leveling the playing field between investment firms trading off the data and the general public, which doesn't have the same resources.
 
“Due to the speed of modern-day supercomputers the reality is that the raw data will be scraped from the (department's) website and, thus, the changes will have little, if any, effect on the perceived advantage to algorithmic traders,” the news organizations wrote in their letter, according to Bloomberg News. “Instead, it will increase the advantage that algorithmic traders have by impeding Lockup attendees’ ability to disseminate their analyses of the data."

The Hill has reached out to the Labor Department for comment.