Stuff You Should Know

Economic Recovery Continues

Last month, the unemployment rate in April was 7.5% and there were 165,000 jobs added to the economy. This is a significant increase compared to the 88,000 added in March. The professional and business services industry added the most, with 73,000, followed by leisure and hospitality (38,000), retail (29,000), and healthcare (29,000). In reaction, the stock market surged, with the Dow Jones (a collection of 30 stocks that represent the largest and most successful companies in America) adding 165 points and the S&P (an index of 500 stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange) at an all-time high.

These numbers were reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is a government agency under the U.S. Department of Labor. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is responsible for collecting data and reporting on labor market activity, working conditions, and price changes in the economy. It is considered an independent statistical agency, meaning that it must meet a number of criteria including consistency, accuracy, the ability to address current social and economic issues as well as reflecting changes in economic conditions.

Dig Deeper: Do you know anyone who is actively looking for a job? Ask them what kinds of jobs they are seeing advertised. Look at a job-site like or through your local newspaper. What kinds of trends do you see?


Bangladesh Factory Tragedy

On April 24, a garment factory located in Bangladesh, India collapsed, killing 580 and injuring many of the 2,500 workers. Government officials reported that it was a combination of shoddy building materials and the vibrations of the heavy machinery that caused the collapse. The building’s owner, Mohammed Sohel Rana, is being charged with illegal construction, negligence and forcing workers to work, for which he could spend up to seven years in prison. The engineer who said the building should be evacuated could also face charges because he worked as a consultant on the building and approved the addition of three illegal floors to what should have only been a five-story building.

Bangladesh has around 4,500 garment factories that make up about 80% of the country’s income. The average worker makes $38 a month. Back in November, a similar factory had a fire that killed 112 people. The Bangladeshi government promised to have routine inspections and revoke the licenses of those factories that didn’t pass. This never happened.

Dig Deeper: Find out why it is so difficult for overseas factories to maintain safe working conditions for their workers. What are advocates saying can be done? Find one company that has been successful in balancing the earning of a profit with basic human rights?


Pinewood Derby Season

This is the time of year when Cub Scouts from all over the country participate in an event called the Pinewood Derby. This tradition, that started in 1953, is where participants make miniature carsand compete against one another. The cars are made from kits, consisting of a block of wood,  plastic wheels, and nails. Participants use wood-working tools to shape the block into a car shape and use the nails for the wheel axles. The cars are usually decorated with paint and decals. During the Derby, cars race against one another on sloped tracks, as the cars are powered by gravity only. There are as many theories about the best way to construct a Pinewood Derby car as there are Cub Scouts. Everyone agrees, however, that the winner is the car that achieves the right balance of weight, aerodynamics and axle-load. Winners receive ribbons and trophies and move on to district and state-wide level matches. For those more artistically-inclined, there are also awards given based on look and design.

What Do You Think? Have you or anyone you know participated in a Pinewood Derby? If so, what was your favorite part of the process and how did you do? If not, visit the activity Web site. Based on what you read, would you be interested in participating? Why or why not?

A Jamestown Story

Reconstruction of Jamestown, Virginia colonial settlement

Photo Credit: NPS Photo
The reconstructed museum at Jamestown is based on archaeological evidence. Learn more about new evidence that is calling into question what we know about the early English settlers in the Americas.

Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in North America, is a permanent fixture in United States history books. Recently, however, its residents have made the front page of the nation’s

daily news. Archaeologists on a recent dig of the area found what they believe is the first physical evidence that might align with some earlier written accounts of cannibalism. The skull of a teenage girl had a number of suspicious marks that are not consistent with normal injuries. Some experts believe the cuts were intended to extract the brain or the tongue.

Historians know that early in the settlement history of the Jamestown colony, there was a winter that challenged the colonists who were unprepared for living in the wilderness of the New World. These bleak months have been called The Starving Time. Only 60 of the original 300 settlers ultimately survived. The English colonists did not have sufficient food to last throughout the winter. They ate their horses, cats, dogs, and then mice, rats, snakes and even the leather on their shoes. There is much about this story that still needs investigation, considering its sensational nature. So far, only 10% of the area has been excavated. The Smithsonian museum hosted a special exhibition based on the new evidence.

Dig Deeper: How much do you know about the settlement of Jamestown? Find out basic information–why they left England, why they chose the land they did, and what ultimately saved them from complete extinction.