News: CJ Exclusives

Congressional Committee Asks Perdue to Produce BLS Records

CJ story cited in request for information on gov’s comments on embargoed jobs data

The U. S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce has requested that Gov. Bev Perdue provide information spelling out how she was able in August to release North Carolina employment data that was supposed to be protected by an embargo.

In a letter sent to Perdue Dec. 21, Committee Chairman Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., cited a Carolina Journal Online story published Dec. 19 reporting that Perdue, in a speech, publicly discussed information from the state’s monthly employment report before its scheduled release.

Kline sent a similar letter to U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.

In a press release, Kline said, “Unemployment data can affect the confidence of markets, consumers, and employers. Federal law provides safeguards to ensure no one uses this information for unfair gain. We must pursue any and all allegations of improper handling of sensitive data. I urge Secretary Solis and Governor Purdue to provide the information I’ve requested and conduct a thorough review of their policies immediately.”

The letter to Perdue also stated that emails between the state’s Employment Security Commission (now the Division of Employment Security) and Perdue’s office showed information was shared that may not have been authorized by the cooperative agreement between the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics and each state that is meant to protect the unauthorized release of protected employment data.

A CJ Online story published Monday reported BLS had concluded that Perdue’s August remarks before the Rotary Club of Asheville violated the cooperative agreement with BLS. At the time, state ESC Labor Market Information Division director Betty McGrath reported the violation to the BLS regional office in Atlanta, and BLS Regional Director Janet Rankin followed up with interviews of ESC officials. Rankin would not say if any further action was taken.

The committee gave Perdue until Wednesday to produce copies of the state’s cooperative agreement with BLS; CJ requested that and other related information last week and was told the request was being reviewed by DES lawyers.

In addition, Kline’s letter asks the governor to produce a series of documents and communications, including those:

• “related to the protocols your office and [the N.C. Employment Security Commission] have put in place to protect against the unauthorized dissemination” of employment data;

• “relating to the potential unauthorized released of BLS data;”

• between the governor’s office and ESC relating to unemployment data, and;

• between ESC and the U.S. Department of Labor related to unemployment data.

Read the letter here (PDF download).

U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, a Republican who represents North Carolina’s 5th Congressional District, is a member of the committee.

Attempts to get comment from Foxx and Perdue have not been successful.

Rick Henderson is managing editor of Carolina Journal. Executive Editor Don Carrington also contributed reporting for this story.

This story was updated after initial publication to include remarks from Rep. Kline to Secretary Solis.