Can’t get a job? Create your own. That seems to be plan for many in 2020.

According to recent data from the US Census, business applications are up almost 40% from last year, with most of that happening in the third quarter of 2020. The charts below show percent changes for week 41 (out of 52) for 2020 and 2019. For week 41, there are 38.9% more applications this year than in 2019. For comparison, the applications in 2019 were 12.7% higher than 2018, which was only 4.0% higher than 2017.

The chart below shows a skyrocketing increase in applications in the third quarter of 2020. We didn’t see these kinds of increases during the great recession (in red). So, why do we see this now? What is different this time around? I’m wondering if people are re-starting old businesses. Even so, I would have expected to see a dip in the second quarter, but there isn’t one.

Last time, there were financial factors creating the crash. This time, it’s much more intense, with entire sectors of the economy shutting down for months. World travel came to a near stand still. This is global and is greatly impacting supply chains for manufacturing and retails sectors. This is a horse of a different color. We are still having to wait and see what happens as we head into cold and flu season. Our physical health is at risk. Our financial and economic health is at risk. We are also heading into the retail sectors favorite time of year. But this year will be different – less travel, less shopping, less events and parties.

We still don’t know if we will see another wave of shut downs and hospital crises. We are still playing wait and see.

[ Note: You can learn how to create your own bar charts using FRED data with this pdf.]

Can An Exam Enhance Student Learning?

Today was our AP® Microeconomics exam on industrial organization, market failure, and government interventions. It was covering eight chapters in the text. After creating it, I had a few concerns:

  • it was too long
  • there were a couple things on there that I didn’t feel we thoroughly covered
  • I didn’t want to shorten it or postpone it

So, it was time to be creative. I know my students want to do well and that they care about learning. They want to get good grades, go to college, and have nice lives. I want all that for them, too. This test had the potential to cause a bunch of stress, complaints, and grade damage. I needed a solution. 

You may be thinking, well, just shorten it! Yeah, I thought the same thing. However, I wanted them to have the full range of possible AP® style questions that they would face on the AP® exam. And, it was about half the length of the exam. The AP® exam is only two hours and ten minutes long and we had 90 minutes for our test period. So, I felt it was actually a fair length, just longer than our usual in-class exams. I also liked all of the questions and knew we had covered everything except for a couple of terms that I felt they could figure out, like “average tax rate.” 

To take a pulse of how the kids were doing, I went around the room and checked in with everyone. “How’s it going?” “Any questions?” Most of them said no. They said it was okay. 

But, I still wanted to provide an opportunity for them to do better. With about 15 minutes left in the period, I told the students to review the exam, read any questions they hadn’t gotten to and scan the vocabulary and diagrams. I told them they could have ten more minutes to work on the test. At the end of the test, I told them they could go home, study again and have their tests back during the first 15 minutes of the next class (in two days – we have block periods).

During our tutorial period today, a group of students came in to work together and to try to ask me more questions. I didn’t want to answer but paid close attention to their discussions. It was thrilling to see them argue about ideas, look things up, work together and come to a consensus with how monopolists make profits and engage in price discrimination, how deadweight loss occurs, how a tax can fall unequally on consumers and producers and other microeconomic concepts. 

The best moment was when one of the students said, “This is great, I’m learning so much from this!” He’s a strong student anyway, who typically gets high grades and I was pleased to know that he was getting a lot out of the process. 

I know this breaks the tradition of testing, but I also knew these students appreciate a break and have an opportunity to know exactly what to study. It’s almost a way to build in a retake or have them do test corrections. Whatever the case, it accomplished what I hoped it would. A targeted re-studying session and a highly engaged discussion amongst the students where they strengthened their knowledge and improved their ability to demonstrate content mastery.