Every month, when the US jobs report is announced, journalists race to tweet the number as fast as they can. Many investors, meanwhile, pay lots of money for fast access to the data so they can trade on the reaction.
Today, though, they all appear to have been scooped by a tweet from the custodian of American employment data, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. This tweet was sent at exactly one second past 8:30 a.m. EDT, when the number is officially released:
That was two seconds faster than Bloomberg, which ran the number at 8:30:03 a.m., according to a timestamp from the news organization’s terminals (seen below in Hong Kong time). Update: An engineer at Bloomberg says the first headline “appeared milliseconds after 8:30:01.” And I’m also including a screenshot sent over by Bloomberg spokesman Ty Trippet showing an 8:30:01 a.m. timestamp on the jobs data, which would mean it ran at more-or-less the same time as the freely available BLS tweet. It’s also worth noting that Bloomberg terminals now include tweets.
Back on Twitter, the BLS was seven seconds earlier than the first non-governmental tweet about the jobs data, by foreign exchange news site ForexLive at 8:30:08 a.m. The next tweet went out at 8:30:13 a.m. from high-frequency trading firm Autotrades. The first tweet of the jobs data by an account with a human name came from Bloomberg reporter Phil Mattingly at 8:30:15 a.m., followed very closely by the Washington Post’s Zachary Goldfarb. The journalist perhaps best known for obsessively following the jobs report, Business Insider’s Joe Weisenthal, didn’t get the number out until 8:30:19 a.m. (Quartz, we should note, didn’t tweet until 8:30:32 a.m.)
These timestamps can be discerned from Twitter’s metadata, and we’re basing the order on a Twitter search for “88″ since the top-line figure in today’s report was the disappointing addition of 88,000 jobs.
All this may seem trivial, but the BLS has recently tightened security in the “lockup” of journalists who are allowed early access to the jobs report in order to get the data out at precisely 8:30 a.m. Access to the data for customers of Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters was the subject of a Congressional hearing last year. “Why would anyone subscribe to your newsletters if they weren’t getting some benefit in regards to accessing information before the public?” Rep. Jackie Speier asked representatives of the news organizations at the time (pdf).
And a lawsuit filed yesterday by an ex-Reuters employee alleges that the news organization gives some customers a two-second head start on access to other economic data. Some people have complained that high-frequency trading firms have an unfair advantage in access to data releases like these.
So it would be quite a development if the best way to get the monthly US jobs figure turned out to be following the government on Twitter.