Garland County's unemployment rate jumped from 4.9% in March to a record-breaking 15.6% in a single month. The effects of the current economic recession have created a large amount of uncertainty, especially for small businesses and people entering the job market. These include students enrolled in postsecondary educational institutions. According to the state Division of Higher Education's most recent enrollment report, more than 160,000 students enrolled in Arkansas postsecondary schools in the 2018-19 school year.
What exactly are these student's concerns? This is a frequent topic in mass media. Yet as a Garland County native and senior college student, I've observed other concerns voiced by peers. These are primarily economic and revolve around the U.S. economy's ability to generate adequate jobs and paychecks. While students of my generation are sometimes characterized in the media as "looking for handouts," a more fundamental issue is whether there is sufficient understanding of the factors that serve as the foundation of our market-based economic system.
Market-based economies rely on factors such as property rights, the rule of law, a non-arbitrary regulatory regime, sound money, and freedom for entrepreneurs pursuing their dreams to provide consumers with new goods and services. Nonmarket economies have simply not shown they can generate the prosperity sought by individuals of all generations when attempted in the real world.
These concerns emerge in discussions with University of Central Arkansas peers voicing their own concerns. Most involve COVID-19's economic impact. One fellow student, a senior majoring in insurance and risk management, wonders about any fallout on the insurance industry that he seeks to enter upon graduation. Another, a graduate student studying speech pathology, is curious about telemedicine's impact on her specialized field. Finally, a doctoral student in biomedical sciences has concerns about access to funding, research facilities, and supplies that have grown exponentially during the crisis. All of these issues affect Garland County.
As a senior economics/finance student, my perspective is different from many of my student peers. My interest lies in entrepreneurship and economic research. With the U.S. economy forced to quickly evolve due to the pandemic, there are endless examples of new entrepreneurial ventures emerging to solve problems created by the outbreak.
One example is ZOOM Video Communications Inc., which provides video-first communications platforms. Another is K12 Inc., a technological education company that enables distance and specialized learning for students including those forced to learn at home. And finally, we have Instacart Inc., which provides online grocery shopping and delivery.
By observing their behavior and the macroeconomy, it's clear there is a growing demand among consumers for entrepreneurial solutions to problems created by the COVID-19 outbreak. Entrepreneurs' ability to develop these solutions will be undermined if we overlook the factors that serve as the foundation of our market-based economic system. Our market economy is key to America's future prosperity.
Dylan Saettele is an economic analyst with the Arkansas Policy Foundation's Post-Millennial Project. The Policy Foundation is a nonprofit think tank founded in 1995 in Little Rock.