N.C. Gov. Perdue challenged on labor data

McClatchy NewspapersJanuary 9, 2012 

WASHINGTON — A congressional committee wants answers from Gov. Bev Perdue about how she was able to release closely guarded labor statistics before their scheduled release.

Few economic reports carry more weight than the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports on unemployment. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the House Education and the Workforce Committee chairman, is concerned Perdue's office broke security protocol in August and improperly released the data 24 hours before the information was publicly available.

"Unemployment data can affect confidence of markets, consumers, and employers," Kline said in a statement. "Federal law provides safeguards to ensure no one uses this information for unfair gain."

Perdue's staff denied that the governor did anything wrong and accused her political opponents of drumming up partisan attacks.

"To be clear, we acknowledge that, in a speech she gave last summer to the Asheville Rotary Club, the governor did allude to an uptick in the unemployment rate a day before the data was released officially," said Chris Mackey, Perdue's press secretary. "North Carolina officials promptly reached out to personnel at the Bureau of Labor Statistics to make them aware; this was in accordance with the terms of the agreement between the State and BLS. There were no sanctions, penalties, or repercussions of any kind from this event, which occurred nearly five months ago."

Bureau of Labor Statistics officials could not be immediately reached.

Kline has requested that Perdue provide documents and emails between her office and the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Employment Security Commission of North Carolina. The documents are due today, according to the letter.

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

The request is in response to reports by The Carolina Journal, a publication of the conservative John Locke Foundation, which raised questions whether Perdue violated the cooperative agreements with the BLS.

Maintaining they did nothing wrong, Perdue's staff said they will still comply with the committee's request and provide the documentation.

"The Republican leadership in the House of Representatives should be focused on protecting middle class Americans and restoring economic security rather than chasing down partisan news stories," Mackey said.

The release of the unemployment data also could come up today during the Revenue Laws Committee meeting at the state legislature.

Lynn Holmes, the state Division of Employment Security chief, is expected to testify on the state's mounting debt to the federal government because of unemployment benefit payments.

News & Observer staff writer Rob Christensen contributed to this report.

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