WASHINGTON - 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 release.
The early access to embargoed data allows news services to prepare articles in advance of the public release of economic reports.
While credentialed reporters will still have early access to embargoed economic figures, the department says it's barring their use of computers during that time. The Labor Department says this is to ensure the security of the data and to prevent anyone from benefiting from early access to the data, which can influence stock and bond markets.
Department officials say the ban will go into effect March 1. It will cover all releases that the department issues each month, including the highly watched U.S. jobs report.
For several years, reporters have had to surrender their cellphones and other electronic devices before entering the so-called lockup rooms in order to prevent early transmission of the information in the reports. But they were allowed to write their news stories on computers that could transmit the data only after the embargo lifted.
But Labor officials said the current process still gives some news organizations a competitive advantage by allowing them to transmit the data through high-speed networks to serve such clients as investment firms.
``These updated procedures will strengthen the security of our data and offer the general public equitable and timely access,'' William W. Beach, BLS commissioner, said in a letter announcing the decision.