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Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart Axios Visuals

Airfares are edging lower as international travel is increasingly being discouraged by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why it matters: The Delta variant of COVID-19, is casting a shadow over the economic recovery. A dip in airfares that had been surging could be a signal that consumers may pull back in the months to come.

Driving the news: On Wednesday, Southwest Airlines announced bookings have decelerated and cancellations have picked up this month, which it said "are believed to be driven by the recent rise in COVID-19 cases associated with the Delta variant."

State of play: While airplane tickets represent a relatively small component of what most Americans spend on, it’s been among the categories seeing the largest increases in recent months.

  • That's because prices were unusually depressed a year ago. And supply has lagged demand as the economy reopened.

By the numbers: Airfares fell 0.1% month over month in July, according to the Consumer Price Index report out Wednesday.

  • This comes after a 2.7% jump in June and a 7% surge in May.
  • For context, prices are up 19% from July 2020 levels.

What they’re saying: "The recent degree of strength was unlikely to continue indefinitely, and today's report suggests the slowing may be happening a bit quicker than expected," TD Securities chief U.S. macro strategist Jim O’Sullivan tells Axios.

Yes, but: Edgerton also points out that airline fares are still about 10% below pre-pandemic levels.

  • As such, prices are likely to climb again, but at a more moderate pace, Oxford Economics chief U.S. financial economist Kathy Bostjancic tells Axios.

What to watch: It will be interesting to see if the Delta variant affects tourism-driven local economies and other parts of the travel industry, such as lodging, where prices spiked 6.8% in July.

Go deeper

Oct 14, 2021 - Health

FDA will review Merck COVID-19 pill

The Merck logo. Photo Illustration by Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced on Thursday that it will meet on Nov. 30th to review Merck's experimental oral antiviral COVID-19 treatment

Why it matters: An oral antiviral drug designed to prevent or treat COVID-19 could be a key tool to combat the pandemic. Merck ended its vaccine development in January.

Oct 15, 2021 - Health

Maine health care staff won't get unemployment benefits if they refuse vaccine

A pharmacy technicinan specialist at Maine Medical Center in South Portland, Maine. Photo: Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Maine health care workers who face firing for defying COVID vaccine requirements will not be eligible to receive unemployment benefits, AP reports.

Why it matters: The notice comes as Maine's hospitals suffer labor shortages partly related to the state's vaccine mandate. One of the state's biggest hospitals has had to turn away trauma and pediatric patients and shutter an entire department, according to a local CBS affiliate.

Oct 14, 2021 - Sports

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban says he requires all employees to be vaccinated

Photo: Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said in a podcast Wednesday that he requires all of his employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Driving the news: Cuban's comments come the same week Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order Monday that prohibits COVID-19 vaccine mandates by any "entity," including employers.