Hi! Whether you’re chilling or grilling this Labor Day, we’ve got some charts for you to deploy if the conversation dries up over the long weekend. Today we have data exploring:
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Ugly numbers, hard to read
The national report card isn’t looking great. Data out this week revealed that 9-year-olds’ math and reading scores took a huge hit in the last two years — a worrying early sign of the pandemic’s impact on education. Reading results are down some 5 points, the steepest decline since 1990, and math scores have declined for the first time since the National Assessment of Educational Progress began in the 1970s.
When Covid-19 shut down schools and parents began to stand in as substitute teachers, many expected that education would suffer, but the full toll is only now becoming clear.
For top-performing students the change in results in the last 2 years has been relatively modest, with scores falling just 2 and 3 points for reading and math, respectively. Sadly, however, it was the students who were already struggling most that suffered the worst drops following the pivot to at-home education. The bottom 10% of reading students saw their scores drop 10 points on average over the two-year assessment window, whilst the lowest-performing math students suffered a 12 point drop in the same period.
The widening chasm between the highest and lowest-performing students will be a major concern for parents and policymakers — particularly in the context of severe teacher shortages in certain areas.
Lululemon reported another set of impressive sales numbers yesterday, as the company best known for its yoga-pants continues to successfully stretch itself into new markets — sending shares up 10% at the time of writing.
The company has been reaping the rewards of a number of new ventures. Its nascent menswear division grew by some 27% in the recent quarter and their latest endeavor — getting into the shoe market — is likely to add to sales in coming months, as is the at-home fitness product, Mirror, which it acquired for $500m in 2020.
LULU like Nike
And that's not where the similarity ends.
Lululemon, like Nike and many other retailers, has increasingly gone after a direct relationship with consumers. The DTC division, which includes online sales, got a significant boost during the pandemic and has held up ever since. Over the last 12 months, Lululemon's DTC revenue has matched the company's store-based sales. With no expensive overheads, those direct sales are much, much more lucrative for LULU.
Scraping the barrels
America’s crude oil stockpile has fallen below 450 million barrels, marking its lowest level since 1984, as the Biden administration continues to use the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to alleviate the premium that Americans are paying at the pumps.
First introduced by President Ford in 1975 as a means of mitigating oil supply disruptions in the states, the SPR has functioned more recently as an American price-control tool following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Washington pledged to release an average of 1 million barrels of oil a day from the SPR over 6 months, in a plan to tackle rising gas prices which reached over $5-per-gallon earlier this year. Whilst multi-million barrel drawdowns aren’t uncommon — previous presidents have used the SPR as an emergency response to the Gulf War and Hurricane Katrina, for example — the stockpile is starting to strain under the weight of this cost-addressing roll out.
Critics argue that Biden’s bumper barrel release is a short-term fix for a wider structural issue, while others point to recently falling gas prices as proof that the drawdown was necessary.
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**This is sponsored content.