Economy & Business

Why it matters: After a record economic expansion, the coronavirus pandemic sent the U.S. economy into a recession as unemployment soared to staggering heights. The country now faces urgent questions about how much stimulus is needed for reeling consumers and businesses, and what a recovery might look like.

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Formerly redlined areas now are often urban heat islands

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Heat is typically the No. 1 weather-related killer in the U.S. — but depending on the neighborhood, some city residents experience cooler, more manageable temperatures than others.

Why it matters: All cities trap heat, with their darkly colored asphalt and energy absorbent buildings — a phenomenon known as the Urban Heat Island effect. However, within these heat islands, some areas are consistently hotter.

Public health mapping key to saving lives in disasters

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The increasing number of extreme weather incidents is spurring calls from emergency services workers and state and local officials for better public health mapping to identify and assist people at risk from environmental disasters.

Why it matters: People of color, especially Black Americans, have been disproportionately affected by environmental hazards and are more likely to die of environmental causes now and in the future.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
1 hour ago - Energy & Environment

Climate change could hit people of color especially hard

Data: EPA; Note: Relative effects at 2°C warming above 1986-2005 average and 50 centimeters of sea level rise;  Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

A growing environmental threat to communities of color — particularly Black Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans — is the damage some are likely to suffer because of climate change in the coming years.

The big picture: This visual is based on an EPA analysis released this month that explores how warming and rising seas could make life especially miserable for people of color based on where they currently live in the lower 48 states.

Communities of color bear disproportionate flood risk

Data: First Street Foundation; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

A national study out earlier this year from the nonprofit First Street Foundation supports what experts have long believed: The National Flood Insurance Program undercharges for flood insurance in certain areas, making it cheaper and easier for people to live in dangerous places if they’re willing to take the risk.

The big picture: The group found 4.2 million properties across the country face major flood risk and pay too little in flood insurance; a quarter of those were in Florida. And the data show the risk is racially lopsided.

Henry Herrera and the legacy of the Trinity Test

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer. Photos: Russell Contreras/Axios, Fotosearch/Getty Images

On a cool July dawn, 11-year-old Henry Herrera and his father were outside their home in Tularosa, New Mexico, when they saw a bright light and heard the boom of what turned out to be the world's first atomic bomb test.

  • Hours later, their home was covered in ash.

Why it matters: Three-quarters of a century later, Hispanic and Mescalero Apache families and descendants of those living near the Trinity Test are dealing with rare cancers that have devastated nearly four generations, while the federal government ignored, dismissed and forgot them.

Race and the environment in America

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Most of us take the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink for granted. But for people of color, the environment is often the cause of chronic, sometimes fatal health issues.

The toll of environmental racism

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Geoff Robins/Getty Images

In August 2015, Steve Benally walked out of his Halchita, Utah, home on the Navajo Nation and heard a warning: Don't use the water. The Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colorado, had spilled toxic wastewater into the Animas River watershed.

The big picture: Benally would lose his harvest and suffer from secondary health effects, highlighting just one of the environmental dangers some Native Americans, Black Americans and Latinos face from pollution and poor government oversight.

States that ended COVID unemployment benefits see no boost in job growth

Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

States that ended federal unemployment benefits earlier this summer saw August job growth at less than half the rate of states that retained the benefits, according to new data released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Why it matters: Leaders in the largely Republican-led states had insisted that the benefits were discouraging people from work, and ended the assistance program early ahead of its planned expiration on Sept. 6.

Updated Sep 17, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: Key FDA committee takes on the big booster question — Los Angeles County to require vaccination proof at indoor bars — France suspends 3,000 unvaccinated health workers without pay.
  2. Health: Worsening crisis at Rikers Island jail spurs call for action — 1 in 500 Americans has died — Cases are falling, but deaths are rising.
  3. Politics: White House invites call with Nicki Minaj to discuss vaccine — Gottlieb says CDC hampered U.S. response — 26 states have limited state or local officials' public health powers.
  4. Education: Denver looks to students to close Latino vaccination gap — Federal judge temporarily blocks Iowa's ban on mask mandates in schools — Massachusetts activates National Guard to help with school transportation.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Sep 17, 2021 - Politics & Policy

The line between business and politics has vanished

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

"Stop writing about politics. I signed up for a business newsletter." I get that message, sometimes a lot of them, when this space's eyes wander toward Washington, D.C.

Why it matters: Years ago, it might have been a valid critique. Today, though, the line between business and politics has all but vanished.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Sep 17, 2021 - Economy & Business

Philip Morris wins control of inhaler maker Vectura

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Philip Morris International (NYSE: PM) won a shareholder vote to take control of British asthma inhaler maker Vectura Group (LSE: VEC) for £1.1 billion ($1.5 billion), having previously outbid The Carlyle Group.

  • Why it matters: The world's largest maker of cigarettes, a major contributor to respiratory disease, will now make products that treat respiratory disease. Some health advocates have asked Britain's competition authority to intervene, asking it to consider what they refer to as "monopolies of harm."

The consumer's massive "war chest"

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

Economists expect the pace of economic growth to cool off now that government transfer payments like stimulus checks and emergency unemployment benefits are in the rearview mirror. But evidence suggests that the U.S. consumer is sitting on a lot of financial firepower that could be a key driver of growth in the quarters to come.

Why it matters: U.S. consumer spending is massive, representing about 70% of GDP.

Sep 17, 2021 - Health

Retail sales increase despite low expectations from Delta

Data: FRED; Chart: Axios Visuals

Consumers defied expectations and shopped at an increasing rate amid a resurgence in COVID-19 cases.

Why it matters: Several measures of consumer confidence fell sharply in August, suggesting consumer spending could fall during the month. In fact, concerns about the Delta variant's impact on the economy had prominent Wall Street economists cutting their expectations for Q3 GDP growth.

The Fed takes on its own rules amid stock trading controversy

Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

New disclosures that showed Fed officials were active in financial markets set off a firestorm of criticism. Now the Fed may overhaul the long-standing rules that allow those transactions.

Why it matters: What officials actively traded was sensitive to the Fed decisions they helped shape, including the unprecedented support that underpinned a massive financial market boom.

Sep 17, 2021 - Economy & Business

What we're driving: The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder

2022 Nissan Pathfinder. Photo: Nissan

The Nissan Pathfinder has received a welcome makeover for 2022, going from run-of-the-mill crossover to stylish and rugged contender among family-friendly SUVs.

The big picture: It's the latest in a string of attractive models from Nissan, which has been mounting a turnaround effort after abandoning a profit-sapping discount strategy to fuel growth.

What's new: The 2022 Pathfinder was redesigned from the ground up, except for the carry-over V6 engine, which is now paired with a new 9-speed transmission.

I drove the $41,490 Pathfinder SL version with standard front-wheel-drive. (All-wheel drive is optional.)

  • It came with a $2,900 premium package that added features like a panoramic roof, heated second-row captain chairs and a 13-speaker Bose audio system.

The interior was spacious and comfortable, with one-touch access to third-row seating and desirable tech features like a 9-inch infotainment screen, Apple CarPlay, a wireless charging pad and a WiFi hotspot.

One cool feature: The hands-on, assisted-driving system (Nissan ProPILOT Assist) is linked to the car's navigation system, which means the Pathfinder knows when a curve or exit is coming up and will automatically slow down.

One annoying feature: The Pathfinder honked six times every time I exited the vehicle. It's Nissan's way of reminding drivers to check the back seat for kids or pets.

  • Hot-car deaths are avoidable tragedies, and a proposed law would require all cars to have a rear-seat-check reminder.
  • But safety advocates say technology that actually detects movement inside the vehicle is preferable.
  • It would also save my neighbors — and me — some annoyance.

Hard times for hotels

Expand chart
Data: American Hotel & Lodging Association and Kalibri Labs; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Stayed in a hotel lately? Neither have I.

Revenue in the hotel sector is projected to be down $59 billion this year compared with 2019, per a report from the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) and Kalibri Labs, a hotel data analytics company.

Why it matters: Business travel — which, for a shiny moment, looked like it might rebound, before COVID-19's Delta variant surge — is the bread and butter of the hotel business. Now it's "not expected to reach pre-pandemic levels until 2024," according to AHLA.

What they're saying: An estimated 67% of business travelers "are planning to take fewer trips, 52% are likely to cancel existing travel plans without rescheduling, and 60% are planning to postpone existing travel plans," according to a national survey by Morning Consult on behalf of AHLA.

FTC releases findings on how Big Tech eats little tech

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: An Rong Xu/Washington Post via Getty Images

Federal Trade Commission chair Lina Khan signaled changes are on the way in how the agency scrutinizes acquisitions after revealing the results of a study of a decade's worth of Big Tech company deals that weren't reported to the agency.

Why it matters: Tech's business ecosystem is built on giant companies buying up small startups, but the message from the antitrust agency this week could chill mergers and acquisitions in the sector.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Updated Sep 17, 2021 - Economy & Business

America fought the pandemic economy — and won

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The U.S. economy is emerging from the pandemic with more well-paying jobs for those who want them, less hunger, less poverty, higher wages, less inequality, and more wealth for everyday Americans.

Why it matters: None of these outcomes were expected when the pandemic began. All of them are the result of massive government programs.

The biggest toss-up in TV

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The future of television likely rests on the winner of an intense bidding war for one of the most sought-after programming packages in America: NFL Sunday Ticket. 

Why it matters: The winner of this multi-billion-dollar battle between tech giants and traditional media companies will have an enormous advantage as premium sports content goes digital.

Sep 17, 2021 - Health

Intermountain to acquire SCL Health

Intermountain Healthcare has found a new merger partner. Photo: Intermountain

Intermountain Healthcare will acquire SCL Health roughly six months after Intermountain and Sanford Health ended their merger attempt.

Why it matters: The combined Intermountain-SCL system will own 33 hospitals, will generate more than $13 billion of annual revenue and will dominate several areas throughout Utah and Colorado — consequently gaining leverage over health insurers and employers as a must-have network if the deal is finalized.

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