Labor Investigating Early Release of U.S. Producer-Price Index

The Labor Department is investigating the early release of data on U.S. producer prices after the agency’s communications system malfunctioned today.

Clients of Thomson Reuters Corp. saw headlines announcing that wholesale costs were unchanged in August at about 8:28 a.m. New York time, two minutes before the official release at 8:30 a.m. The breach occurred from the Labor Department’s facility used by journalists to transmit economic statistics.

“It’s a technical issue,” Carl A. Fillichio, the department’s senior adviser for communications and public affairs in Washington, said in an interview. “We are taking it very seriously. We are investigating.”

Credentialed journalists in so-called lockups are given data in advance of their release to the public, allowing time to prepare stories, headlines and tables. Communication by phone or computer is cut off for the half hour in advance of the release time that reporters typically have to write their stories. A Department of Labor employee then flips a switch that opens telephone and data lines, allowing journalists to transmit their information.

When reporters arrived at the Labor Department lockup room today for the producer-price release, communications and Internet access were down for almost all news agencies, including Thomson Reuters.

That agency’s headlines and tables detailing the producer-price data went out early even though the master switch opening lines had not been flipped by Labor Department staff. Communications for most agencies remained down even after the switch was turned back on.

“We followed all our normal procedures in the lockup today,” Heather Carpenter, a Thomson Reuters spokeswoman, said in a statement.

Bloomberg News is among the organizations that participate in the government economic lockups. Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News, competes with Thomson Reuters in providing news and information.

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