The Labor Department will begin restricting news organizations' use of economic data by barring computers from the rooms where reporters receive such data before its public releasehealth. Commerce officials said those reports will continue to be issued at the Labor Department under the new restrictions.
The new system raises the risk, though, of overloading the departments' websites once the economic data is publicly released. Many high-frequency financial firms have been relying on news agencies to provide them with the data via computer lines. If those firms suddenly all besiege the departments' websites for that data, it could create a logjam that might make the data inaccessible to the public.
Worries about premature release of the data had triggered a federal criminal and civil investigation in 2012, with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the FBI and the Labor Department's inspector general all investigating reports of possible leaks in the previous four years.
A study by the Sandia National Laboratories commissioned by the Labor Department concluded that if there had been leaks of economic data, the most probably source was not the Labor Department's press lockup room but individuals hacking into the Labor Department's computers.
AP Business Writer Marcy Gordon contributed to this report.