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Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Earnings season kicks off this week, and corporate America is expected to report a jump in profits. The results will provide important color on what's going on behind the scenes.

Why it matters: The rapid reopening of the economy has come with its complications including supply chain bottlenecks and inflationary pressures that have made operating a business anything but smooth.

What they're saying: "This quarter will be a key inflection point as it will shed light on the true earnings power of companies in the midst of the economic recovery," NYSE senior market strategist Michael Reinking tells Axios.

  • "It will also be a make or break moment for management teams to share how they are positioning their businesses to stave off margin compression in this challenging operating environment."

What to watch: Companies will spend a lot of time discussing matters very unique to their own operations, but there are some specific issues they will address that will help us better understand the health of business across the economy.

  • Demand: Most companies are expected to see big jumps in revenue, but it's unclear how much of the gains have been driven by pent-up demand or stimulus. Some companies will have gained or lost business due to changes in preferences.
  • Capacity and backlogs: Supply chain issues and labor shortages have limited business activity. Some of that business will be delayed, and some of it will just be lost opportunities.
  • Costs: Wages are rising and raw material costs are up, which are bad for profit margins.
  • Productivity: Many companies have integrated technology while scaling back on office space. Such moves should be good for profit margins.
  • Taxes: The Biden administration has tax hikes on the agenda. More broadly, tighter regulation could make doing business harder and more costly.

The bottom line: All of these details are ultimately about the prospect for earnings growth. And so while each of these questions will yield interesting answers, they should be taken as a whole in order to get the most complete picture of the state of business in America.

Go deeper: Janet Yellen says COVID-19 variants could derail global recovery

Go deeper

Updated Sep 14, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on post-pandemic recovery for Black-businesses

On Tuesday, September 14, Axios markets reporter Courtenay Brown and business reporter Hope King discussed the economic recovery of Black-owned small businesses, featuring Congressional Black Caucus Chair Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) and U.S. Black Chambers President & CEO Ron Busby. 

Rep. Joyce Beatty addressed how the Congressional Black Caucus and Congress are working together to help Black-owned businesses in a post-pandemic era, the primary challenges that the Black-owned business community endured during the pandemic, and how unemployment rates among Black communities vary across the nation. 

  • On government efforts to provide financial relief to small businesses: “When we think about the value of the Congressional Black Caucus and how we had to work with them, many of us small business owners, I know firsthand as a former small business owner how hard it is to make payroll in a normal time. Here’s the good news: 95% of the Biden-approved PPP loans went to small businesses with 20 or less employees, and that was very helpful.” 
  • On consistently disparate unemployment rates in Black communities: “When we hear, 'Oh, unemployment has gone down and people are working,' well, those numbers were never the same for minority-owned businesses, especially Black-owned businesses. The numbers were always double, and we’re still dealing with that.” 

Ron Busby illustrated the progress of Black small businesses in post-pandemic recovery, how efforts from Federal entities and the private sector have assisted in that recovery, and what types of aid he believes are most essential in helping Black-owned small businesses thrive. 

  • On the current state of recovery for Black-owned businesses: “Businesses that are owned by African-Americans and Black people across the country are starting to feel extremely optimistic about the future, but the challenges still exist. The number one challenge for Black-owned businesses is obviously access to capital.” 
  • On adjusting government-run initiatives to better serve Black communities: “We had to go back and make sure that we adjusted those packages, those stimulus opportunities, to make sure that our Black businesses could participate. As you see new programs being rolled out, you’ll see that the US Black Chamber is there to make sure that small, diverse, and primarily Black firms are included in the conversation, as well as being included in the stimulus packages.”  

Axios SVP of Events & Creative Strategy Kristin Burkhalter hosted a View from the Top Segment with Facebook’s Vice President of Business Engineering and Partner Solutions, Alvin Bowles, who discussed how Facebook is supporting Black-owned businesses through various digital exposure initiatives. 

  • “It’s just important to note that individuals are trying to leverage the digital economy to be able to actually decrease that distance between innovation and execution, and trying to figure out the best way to be able to leverage opportunities to have individuals discover their businesses. We feel like there’s an enormous responsibility that we have. As we head into this holiday season, it’s now more important than ever to really focus on the discovery economy and that every good idea deserves to be found.”  

Thank you Facebook for sponsoring this event. 

Milestone: Industrial production reached pre-pandemic levels

Data: FRED; Chart: Axios Visuals

Industrial production joins metrics like GDP and consumer spending that have returned to and surpassed pre-pandemic levels.

Why it matters: The pandemic has caused a wide array of disruptions that have gummed up the links along the supply chain. The fact that industrial production still continues to grow suggests the supply chain, while troubled, is at least improving.

The Exvangelicals

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Even as evangelicals maintain their position as the most popular religion in the U.S., a movement of self-described "exvangelicals" is breaking away, using social media to engage tens of thousands of former faithful.

The big picture: Donald Trump's presidency, as well as movements around LGBTQ rights, #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, drew more Americans into evangelical churches while also pushing some existing members away.