[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 26 (Friday, February 7, 2020)]
[Pages 7332-7333]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-02383]



Bureau of Labor Statistics

Announcing Elimination of Electronic Devices in the DOL Lock-Up 
Facility for Participating News Media Organizations With Pre-Release 
Access to Statistical Information

AGENCY: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor.

ACTION: Notice.


SUMMARY: The Department of Labor (DOL) plans to eliminate use of all 
electronic devices in the lock-up facility and continue to rely on 
transmission sources readily available to the general public to provide 
simultaneous data access to all interested users. These sources include 
agency websites, social media channels, and email subscription lists.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Michael Trupo, Deputy Assistant 
Secretary, Office of Public Affairs, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 
Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC; 202-693-4676; 
[email protected].


I. Background

    The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is responsible for the 
development and oversight of Government-wide policies, principles, 
standards, and guidelines concerning statistical information 
presentation and dissemination, as well as the timely release of 
statistical data. OMB has issued a series of Statistical Policy 
Directives (SPDs) to guide agencies in their dissemination of 
statistical products. Each of these SPDs describes the fundamental 
statistical-system principle of equitable and timely dissemination of 
statistical information to the public. See, e.g., SPD No. 1, 
Fundamental Responsibilities of Federal Statistical Agencies and 
Recognized Statistical Units (Dec. 2, 2014) (``the objectivity of the 
information released to the public is maximized by making information 
available on an equitable, policy-neutral, transparent, timely, and 
punctual basis''); SPD No. 3, Compilation, Release, and Evaluation of 
Principal Federal Economic Indicators (Sept. 25, 1985) (emphasizing the 
importance of releasing Principal Federal Economic Indicators (PFEIs) 
to the public in a fair and orderly manner); SPD No. 4, Release and 
Dissemination of Statistical Products Produced by Federal Statistical 
Agencies (Mar. 7, 2008) (``Statistical agencies must ensure that all 
users have equitable and timely access to data that are disseminated to 
the public''). In short, equitable and timely dissemination of 
statistical information is a core principle of Federal statistical 
    For many years, consistent with these Statistical Policy 
Directives, the news media have aided BLS and ETA in disseminating 
their statistical data. Since the mid-1980s, DOL agencies have provided 
pre-release data access to news organizations under strict embargoes 
(known as ``lock-ups'') for PFEIs, which are a set of designated 
economic data series (e.g., the Employment Situation and Consumer Price 
Index) that have significant commercial value and may affect the 
movement of commodity and financial markets upon release. In addition, 
DOL has employed lock-ups for the release of limited non-PFEI data 
(i.e., Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims). Although not required to 
do so, the Department of Labor (DOL) in 1988 constructed a special 
lock-up facility to provide pre-release access to news media 
organizations. Steps were taken to enhance the security of the lock-up 
facility in 1992 and again in 2011-2012. The lock-ups provide 
participating media organizations 30 minutes before official release 
time to digest PFEI data (and potentially longer in the case of non-
PFEIs). At the official release time, the communication lines within 
the facility are opened, allowing the press to transmit their articles 
or tables of data to the public.
    For many years, dissemination through the lock-up process was a 
highly effective method to get information to the public. But today, it 
is no longer the best means to ensure the equitable and timely 
dissemination of statistical information consistent with OMB's 
guidance. Continuing security concerns also outweigh any continuing 
benefits of the current process.
    DOL's Inspector General has noted concerns with the current press 
lock-up process, including in reports dated January 2, 2014 (17-14-001-
03-315) and March 25, 2016 (17-16-001-01-001). Specifically, DOL 
Inspector General Report 17-14-001-03-315 states that the lock-up 
``unintentionally creates an unfair competitive advantage for certain 
news organizations and their clients'':

    Pre-release access of DOL-generated economic data is intended to 
serve the general public by ensuring that news reports about the 
data are accurate. To that end, the media are given access to the 
data in advance of the public release to facilitate their ability to 
analyze and ask questions about the data as they prepare their news 
stories. However, the intended purpose of ensuring accurate news 
reports must be weighed against the inequitable trading advantage 
that a lock-up

[[Page 7333]]

can potentially create. Several news organizations that participate 
in the DOL press lock-up are able to profit from their presence in 
the lock-up by selling, to traders, high speed data feeds of 
economic data formatted for computerized algorithmic trading. 
Because these news organizations have pre-release access, they are 
able to pre-load the data . . . allowing their clients to get this 
information faster than the general public, which has to wait to 
download the data after it gets posted to the Department of Labor 

    The aforementioned report further recommends that BLS and ETA, ``. 
. . 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.''
    It remains DOL's policy to ensure the media are given time to 
prepare informed summaries and analysis of economic data for the 
general public. However, to protect the integrity of our data and 
promote wide dissemination of key economic data in an equitable, 
timely, secure, and cost-effective manner, as of March 1, 2020, DOL 
will eliminate use of all electronic devices in the lock-up facility. 
The change to eliminate use of all electronic devices in the lock-up 
facility seeks to minimize the risk of premature disclosure of the data 
and the risk of providing an unfair monetary advantage over the rest of 
the public due to the preparation time provided by their early access 
to the data. Specifically, this change will minimize the advantage of 
allowing lock-up participants to prepare electronic data tables that 
may be used for algorithmic trading ventures. The BLS and ETA will 
continue to make their data available to the general public immediately 
upon their 8:30 release through the Web and other sources.

II. Action

    In an effort to protect the integrity of our data and ensure 
fairness in the dissemination of statistical information, DOL plans to 
eliminate use of all electronic devices in the DOL lock-up facility 
starting on March 1, 2020. After that date, credentialed press will 
continue to be allowed into the facility 30 minutes prior to release 
time, following existing security protocols. BLS and ETA staff will be 
present in the lock-up facility; will provide paper copies of releases 
and related material; and will be available to answer questions. 
Credentialed press will be allowed to take notes on paper. At release 
time, credentialed press will be able to leave the lock-up facility. 
DOL staff will continue to escort TV press to their camera stations a 
few minutes before release time, following existing procedures. The 
purpose of these changes is to ``ensure that all users have equitable 
and timely access to data that are disseminated to the public'' as 
noted in OMB Statistical Policy Directive No. 4.
    BLS and ETA will provide access to the official news releases at 
their scheduled release times on the agency websites. In addition, the 
agencies will continue to announce the releases through social media 
channels and send the news releases to email subscribers. Agencies will 
continue to respond to questions about the data from the public 
following the release as well as questions from the media attending the 
lock-ups during and after the lock-up time period.

III. Necessity of Action

    When DOL began providing embargoed data releases in the mid-1980s, 
media dissemination was an equitable and timely method to get data to 
the public. Today, technology and the internet permits the public and 
interested data users to obtain releases for themselves. Unlike media 
organizations in the lock-up facility, however, internet users do not 
have 30 minutes before the official release time to digest the data, 
and are disadvantaged relative to lock-up participants to the extent 
that internet postings may lag slightly behind lock-up transmissions. 
Furthermore, developments in high-speed algorithmic trading technology 
have also raised concerns about the possible impact of unequal access 
to sensitive economic data. As discussed above, DOL's Inspector General 
has issued multiple reports with findings that maintaining the current 
press lock-up ``creates an unfair competitive advantage for certain 
news organizations and their clients.''
    In the time since the OIG recommendations were issued, BLS and ETA 
have devoted significant resources to introducing improved technologies 
that strengthen our infrastructure and ensure data are posted to the 
BLS or DOL websites immediately following the official release time. 
With the introduction of these improved technologies, DOL is positioned 
to eliminate the use of all electronic devices in the lock-up facility 
while still ensuring that all parties, including the media, commercial 
entities, and the general public, will have equitable and timely access 
to our most sensitive data.
    Continuing use of electronic devices in the lock-up process also 
raises considerations of security and cost-efficiency. Given the 
sensitive nature of DOL's PFEI and limited non-PFEI data, we have 
devoted significant attention over the years to safeguarding embargoed 
data to prevent its release out of the lock-up facility prematurely. 
This has included establishing a secure technical and physical 
infrastructure, monitoring participants' adherence to the rules, and 
continually upgrading security as cyber threats have evolved. Despite 
all these precautions, however, the risk of a premature data release is 
inherent in the nature of lock-ups and will be present as long as lock-
ups exist. Discontinuing the use of electronic devices in the lock-up 
facility will significantly reduce our risk of premature release from 
this source.

IV. Result

    The intended result of this notice of DOL's planned elimination of 
the use of electronic devices in the lock-up facility as of March 1, 
2020, is to protect the integrity of our data and preserve the public 
benefit from the informed products produced by the media shortly after 
release. In addition, it enables DOL to widely disseminate the DOL PFEI 
and non-PFEI news releases in an equitable, secure, and cost-effective 
manner so that all data release information is available to the public 
and the media, simultaneously at the official release time.
    The Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis and U.S. 
Census Bureau are also committed to the secure, timely, and equitable 
release of all Principal Federal Economic Indicators. As such, both 
Bureaus will continue to conduct embargoed media lock-ups at the 
Department of Labor's facility and will align their procedures with the 
new process and timeline.
    We are advising stakeholders now of this action planned in 2020 to 
facilitate a predictable and orderly process for stakeholders in the 
DOL lock-up facility.

    Signed at Washington, DC, this 3rd day of February 2020.
William W. Beach,
Commissioner of Labor Statistics.
[FR Doc. 2020-02383 Filed 2-6-20; 8:45 am]