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'Bungling' ONS accidentally publishes UK unemployment and pay data early

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
A Job Centre in Westminster in London, England. Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

The UK’s Office of National Statistics (ONS) accidentally published potentially market-moving jobs and pay data 10 minutes ahead of schedule on Tuesday.

Official data on the UK unemployment rate and earnings growth in February was published at around 9.20am UK time on Tuesday. It was meant to be released at 9.30am.

Due to a problem with the release process some data were released early. In accordance with standard release practices we therefore published all data immediately,” the ONS said in a statement.

A spokesperson told Yahoo Finance UK that the early publication was due to an “error” and an “oversight on our part.” The spokesperson said it was too early to comment on whether there would be an investigation.

The timely release of market sensitive data is a serious matter,” Laith Khalaf, a senior analyst with Hargreaves Lansdown, told Yahoo Finance UK.

The early release has the potential to create an uneven market where some traders and investors have access to the official data ahead of others.

However, Khalaf added, “While this slip from the ONS may have created brief panic for short term traders, for long term investors, 10 minutes is not a material time frame.”

David Cheetham, the chief market analyst at trading platform XTB, said the early release had the effect of “catching some traders off guard.”

Connor Campbell, a financial analyst with SpreadEx, said that the “ONS bungling out the jobs report 10 minutes early” could “potentially have caused issues for plenty of traders.”

“That sterling is so Brexit-focused at the moment perhaps saves the ONS’s blushes somewhat,” Campbell said. “In a different week, and with a different set of figures, however, it may have been far more disastrous.”

The ONS data was better than economists were forecasting. Earnings including bonuses grew by 3.4% in February, against a forecast of 3.2%, and the unemployment rate unexpectedly fell to 3.9% from 4%.

In terms of market reaction there has been a little pop higher in the pound, but the markets remain far more concerned with the latest on the Brexit front,” Cheetham said.