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Questions and Answers about Eliminating Electronics from DOL Lock-up Facility

In order to protect our economic data from premature disclosure and to ensure fairness in the use of the data, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) will eliminate all computers and other electronics from its lock-up facility. This change in procedure will go into effect on March 1, 2020. 

The press announcement has full details. 

What is a lock-up facility? 

Since the mid-1980s, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the Employment and Training Administration (ETA) have provided prerelease access to their most important data releases for news organizations under strict embargoes, known as “lock-ups.” This is consistent with Office of Management and Budget Statistical Policy Directives

Credentialed press receive data in a secure room outfitted with signal detection technology that is monitored to ensure nobody inside the room can communicate with the outside world. BLS and ETA staff are present to answer any questions reporters may have. Currently, credentialed press write stories on computers disconnected from the internet and transmit them when connections are restored exactly at the release time. After March 1, reporters will take notes and write stories on paper. 

Personal electronic devices are prohibited from the lock-up facilities. 

BLS uses the lock-up for several major releases each month, including the Employment Situation and Consumer Price Index. ETA uses the lock-up for the Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims data. These are economic data that have significant commercial value and may affect the movement of commodity and financial markets upon release. 

What is changing and what is not? 

The essence of the lock-up environment is not changing:

  • Credentialed press organizations will still be allowed into the facility 30 minutes before release time, following existing security protocols.
  • Credentialed press will receive the same information — news releases, data tables, and related information — as they currently receive.
  • BLS and ETA staff will be present in the lock-up facility to answer questions.
  • At release time, credentialed press may leave the lock-up facility to file their stories. 

What is changing is that electronic devices will no longer be allowed in the lock-up facility. Credentialed press will receive paper copies of news releases, data tables, and related information. Credentialed press will still be able to take notes or write stories, but they may only do so on paper. Personal electronics are already prohibited from the lock-up facility. 

Why are BLS and ETA doing this? 

We at BLS and ETA are committed to the principle of a level playing field—our data must be made available to all users at the same time. 

BLS and ETA are equally committed to protecting our data from premature disclosure, whether intentional or inadvertent. 

As our announcement states, due to technological advancements the current lock-up procedure potentially creates an unfair competitive advantage for lock-up participants. 

We are now able to continue helping the media produce accurate stories about the data while also ensuring that all parties, including the media, commercial entities, and the general public, will have equitable and timely access to our most sensitive data. 

The elimination of electronics also greatly reduces the risk of high-value data being available to outside parties before their announced release times. 

Why are you making the changes now? 

BLS and ETA are committed to providing timely access to critical economic information for all data users. Before these changes to lock-up could take effect, BLS and ETA needed to ensure that the data could reliably be posted to the BLS or DOL website immediately following the announced release time and that the website infrastructure was sufficiently robust to handle the possibility of increased traffic. 

In the time since the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) recommendations were issued, BLS and ETA have devoted significant resources to introducing improved technologies that strengthen our infrastructure and processing capacity. We are now positioned to continue helping the media produce accurate stories about the data while also ensuring that all parties, including the media, commercial entities, and the general public, will have more equitable and timely access to our most sensitive data. 

Will markets be disrupted by delays in getting data? 

BLS and ETA do not anticipate delays in providing data to market actors. All data users will have access to essential BLS data simultaneously, immediately after the announced release time. 

Will these changes to lockup eliminate an essential backup and introduce the potential risk that no data will be released on time? 

BLS has contingency plans to use social media as a dissemination vehicle if we experience website or internet connectivity problems on a scheduled release date.

Can any news organization attend a lock-up?

News organizations must be credentialed before attending lock-ups. See the U.S. Department of Labor Press Lock-ups Policy Statement and News Organization Agreement.

How many news organizations currently participate in lock-ups?

At present, about a dozen news organizations are credentialed to attend lock-up. Attendance on any given morning ranges from virtually everyone to just a handful.

Even with the announced changes, won’t some users be able to get data and act on it more rapidly than others?

BLS and ETA data will be available to all users at the same time. BLS and ETA will not inadvertently advantage anyone.

What are other U.S. statistical agencies doing?

Currently, the Bureau of the Census and the Bureau of Economic Analysis, both in the Department of Commerce, are using the DOL lock-up facility. They have announced that their releases will continue as scheduled under the new DOL lock-up requirements.

The Department of Agriculture eliminated its media lock-up in 2018.

The Energy Information Administration has been using online-only data releases for many years.

The Federal Reserve Board operates and uses a lock-up facility.

Last Modified Date: January 23, 2020