The Trump administration asked state labor officials to delay releasing exact numbers for increased unemployment claims, according to a report in The New York Times.
“States should not provide numeric values to the public,” Gay Gilbert, the administrator of Labor Department’s Office of Employment Insurance, wrote in a memo Wednesday that was reviewed by the news outlet.
Some states have started to report the number of unemployment claims they've seen so far this week as more and more businesses have been closing in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
The Labor Department email also asks states to only “provide information using generalities to describe claims levels (very high, large increase)” until the department releases the total number of nationwide jobless claims for this week on Thursday of next week.
The memo argues that the state reports should be delayed because the financial markets watch them closely.
Gilbert has worked at the Labor Department during both Democratic and Republican administrations, and the Times reported that there is no evidence that political appointees directed her to send the email. The news outlet reported that some states that received Gilbert's email were bothered by it.
A Labor Department spokesperson said in a statement that "state data is regularly embargoed until the national numbers are published on Thursday morning and states are asked not to share their data until that time."
"As a leading economic indicator that has the potential to impact policy decisions and financial markets, it is important to ensure the information is communicated in a consistent and fair manner," the spokesperson added.
The Times story came out after the Labor Department on Thursday reported that there was a 30 percent increase in unemployment claims last week. The number of unemployment claims is expected to increase further as the number of business closures goes up.
Updated at 1:30 p.m.