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Spicer broke a federal rule when he hailed jobs report too soon after its release

The White House was excited Friday when the first jobs report of the Trump administration came in stronger than expected.

But one official got carried away and broke an obscure federal rule by publicly touting the data too soon.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer took to Twitter 22 minutes after the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the February jobs report.

He tweeted that the 235,000 net new jobs and the slight decline in the unemployment rate was "great news for American workers."

But the timing of the tweet was not great news for Spicer.

It didn't take long for some experienced jobs-report watchers to note that he had jumped the gun and violated a longstanding prohibition against executive branch officials publicly commenting on the report within an hour of its release.

Specifically, Spicer broke the Office of Management and Budget's Statistical Policy Directive No. 3, adopted in 1985.

"Except for members of the staff of the agency issuing the principal economic indicator who have been designated by the agency head to provide technical explanations of the data, employees of the Executive Branch shall not comment publicly on the data until at least one hour after the official release time."

Among those pointing out the violation was Jason Furman.

As chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors under President Obama from 2013 until this past January, Furman emailed a lengthy analysis of the monthly jobs report and often went on TV to discuss the data. 

Furman tweeted that the rule has been in place for decades and "everyone has followed it. Until now."

Spicer made light of the situation when asked about it at his daily briefing, saying he was only tweeting out the headline numbers that news organizations around the world already had reported.

"Don't make me make the podium move on you," he joked, a reference to Melissa McCarthy's portrayal of him on "Saturday Night Live" plowing over reporters with a moving White House lectern.

Spicer said Trump and his staff were thrilled about the strong jobs report.

"I apologize if we’re a little excited and we’re so glad to see so many fellow Americans back at work," he said.

Spicer said his understanding of the rule was that it was designed to avoid affecting the stock market.

But that's not the reason.

The rule dates back to the Nixon administration. 

Concerned about the credibility of government statistics, federal officials in 1969 called for a one-hour delay in comments on economic data.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics website, the rule was designed to "preserve the neutrality and objectivity of the statistics."

Officials at the bureau and the White House were concerned that news briefings about economic data "invited questions on economic policy and outlook matters beyond the responsibility of career service statistical offices."

Under new procedures, the data "would be issued in written releases." Then reporters would be allowed to call bureaucrats to ask questions and the Labor secretary "would wait at least 1 hour to make his statement," the bureau said.

11:53 a.m.:This article was updated with comments from Spicer's briefing.

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