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New Rules on Jobs Data May Be Delayed Amid Outrage

New rules governing advance media access to the monthly jobs report from the Labor Department may not roll out all at once on July 6th as planned, a department official said Wednesday, due to ongoing negotiations with media organizations.

Reporters are typically given the highly anticipated and market-moving jobs numbers half an hour before their 8:30 a.m. public release time. But the government has proposed sweeping changes in the security procedures, or "press lockup" as it's known, prompting complaints from media organizations.

News organizations objected to the new regulations, which would require reporters to use Department of Labor issued computers, transmission lines and even pens and paper.

“The government would literally own and control the reporter’s notebook,” said Bloomberg News Executive Editor Daniel Moss.

“I think there are some things that we agree on, and we’ll implement as we agree,” Carl Fillichio, a spokesman for the Department of Labor, said as he left a sometimes-contentious hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

A few minutes may not mean much to the average person but milliseconds can mean millions of dollars for traders who are able to react first to market-moving information like the government's monthly jobs report.

Several members of Congress questioned the need for a press lockup at all, arguing that media organizations themselves are profit-making enterprises seeking to sell premium services to clients.

But officials from the Labor Department and media executives testifying Wednesday characterized as productive the behind-the-scenes negotiations between the government and the press on early-access rules.

The Department of Labor also indicated some new flexibility in turning over a report on the security procedures surrounding the jobs number that it commissioned from Sandia National Laboratories. That analysis served as the basis for the department’s beefed-up security effort, officials said. The department had initially refused to release a copy of that report to the congressional committee, which promoted a testy exchange between Chairman Darrell Issa , a Republican from California, and Fillichio.

“Would you agree to provide this committee a copy of that report, a full copy?” Issa asked?

“The Department of Labor’s lockup is still operating under the conditions that Sandia looked at,” Fillichio responded. “So it wouldn’t be prudent to release the report just yet.”

“So you’re refusing to give us the information based on an assumption that we cannot look at your vulnerabilities and your proposed rulemaking and make an analysis?” Issa asked. “I’m asking you to release it to the ranking member and myself.”

“If I could get back to you today, Mr. Chairman, I’d consult with our staff and well get back to you today on that if it is just to the two of you,” Fillichio said.

At press time, there was no word on whether Labor had decided to release the report.

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