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Grade 9-12
,
Lesson

The Unemployment Game

Time: 60 mins,
Updated: March 4 2019,
Author: Scott Niederjohn

Objective

Students will be able to:

  • Understand the unemployment rate statistic and how it is determined.
  • Understand the labor force participation rate statistic and how it is determined.
  • Demonstrate their understanding of labor markets through a market activity.

In this economics lesson, students will participate in a labor market to learn about unemployment rate.

Procedure

Warm-up

Use the PowerPoint Slides to guide you and your class through this lesson. Use the speaking notes section for explanations and teacher speaking points to guide you through the lesson. Show slide 1. Ask students what they think the costs of unemployment are.  Next, show slide 2 and point out that unemployment tends to rise during recessions, which are the shaded regions on the graph, and fall during expansions. Ask students to explain why this is.  Tell the students that in this lesson they will how the unemployment rate is calculated along with some other important statistics about the United States’ labor market.

Modeling

Use the short true and false questions in the PowerPoint to introduce students to the basic labor market terms.  Use slide 9 to be sure students understand the basic labor market terms.  Slide 10 may be used as a review.  Use Slide 11 to make sure students understand how to calculate the unemployment rate and the labor force participation rate. These will be important concepts to understand in the group activity.

Group Activity

Now that the students know how to calculate the Unemployment Rate and the Labor Force Participation Rate, tell them it’s time to practice these new skills with a little game. Print the Unemployment Game Cards and cut-out each card individually. Hand each of your students a card. Tell them they will play the role on their card. Have the students move around the classroom and interview their classmates. You can have them speak with everyone in the class or, if you have a large class, do a sample. Each student then should calculate the unemployment rate and the labor force participation rate in the classroom. This activity will give you a good opportunity to review the formulas. It may also be an appropriate time to look at current unemployment data, which a link to may be found on slide 12.  Slide 12 also includes a link to an Interactive Unemployment Map. The notes in the PowerPoint slide deck explain how to set-up the map. 

Individual Activity

Have the students log-on to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and determine the unemployment rate and labor force participation rate in the United States, the state you live in, and the metropolitan area closest to where you live. Ask the students to consider why the unemployment rate in your area is higher or lower than the rate in other parts of the country. Review the answers as a class.

Assessment

Display the following questions on the board. Have your students answer them in a complete sentence.

  1. Determine the impact on the labor force participation rate if two million formerly unemployed workers decide to return to school full-time and stop looking for work.
  2. Determine the impact on the size of the labor force if two million formerly unemployed workers decide to return to school full-time and stop looking for work.
  3. Determine the impact on the unemployment rate if two million formerly unemployed workers decide to return to school full-time and stop looking for work.
  4. The labor force in the United States has 146.8 million people in it. Of those, 138.6 million are employed. What is the unemployment rate?

Answers

  1. The labor force participation rate drops, since these workers have left the labor force.
  2. The labor force drops by two million.
  3. The unemployment rate drops since the percentage drop in the number of unemployed is greater than the percentage drop in the labor force.
  4. 146.8-138.6=8.2 million unemployed. (8.2/146.8) X 100 = 5.6%

Extension

Activity 1

Have the students find the U.S. unemployment rate and labor force participation rate for years in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, and the current decade. Have a discussion about how these have changed.