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StatCan suspends pre-release of jobs data to key government officials after leak


OTTAWA — Statistics Canada is suspending the pre-release of its jobs report to a select group of government officials after a leak of the numbers last week.

The agency had provided an early look at the labour force survey for key officials under strict conditions and through secure channels, but said that will no longer be the case.

"There will be no pre-release of LFS information until further notice," said the agency, which is conducting an investigation into the leak.

The monthly Statistics Canada labour force survey is an important economic indicator and can affect financial markets.

Last week, Bloomberg News reported the April jobs figures about a half hour before the official release at 8:30 a.m. ET on Friday. The news agency cited a person familiar with the data.

The jobs report revealed a loss of nearly two million jobs in April and an unemployment rate of 13.0 per cent, however the result was better than the average expectations of economists.

Financial markets data firm Refinitiv said the average prediction ahead of the report had been for a loss of four million jobs and an unemployment rate of 18 per cent.

When asked by the opposition on Wednesday if the RCMP had been called to investigate, Industry Minister Navdeep Bains called the leak of the April jobs report "completely unacceptable."

"We are going to take the appropriate steps, Statistics Canada is taking the appropriate steps," said Bains, who is the minister responsible for the federal agency.

The labour force survey has been provided to designated officials at Finance Canada, Employment and Social Development Canada and the Privy Council Office for years.

As of April, early access was also granted to the Bank of Canada and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada.

Statistics Canada said all officials must sign a statement of their adherence to the confidentiality provisions prior to receiving the advanced release.

The information is sent through a secure file transfer system the day prior to release and officials are forbidden from briefings until after the markets close.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau has said no stone will be left unturned in the investigation.

"We need to make sure that information that's important like this, that can be market moving is kept confidential right up until the time that it is released publicly," Morneau said this week.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 13, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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