Economy & Business

Why it matters: Despite murmurs of an impending economic crash, the U.S. has seen strong job growth and record low unemployment as trade wars, sweeping technological change and new media consumption habits are changing the American economy.

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Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 a.m. ET: 20,952,811 — Total deaths: 760,235— Total recoveries: 13,015,397Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9 a.m. ET: 5,254,878 — Total deaths: 167,253 — Total recoveries: 1,774,648 — Total tests: 64,831,306Map.
  3. Health: The pandemic's toll on mental health — The kids who are most at risk.
  4. Business: How small businesses got stiffed — Unemployment starts moving in the right direction.
  5. Politics: Biden signals fall strategy with new ads.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Economic data turns unreliable.

Unemployment starts moving in the right direction

Data: Department of Labor; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The number of Americans filing for jobless benefits is finally coming down in a meaningful way and dropping across the board.

By the numbers: Claims for traditional initial jobless claims last week fell by more than 156,000 to 832,000 while initial claims for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program declined to below 500,000 for the first time since April 18.

How small businesses got stiffed by the coronavirus pandemic

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The story of American businesses in the coronavirus pandemic is a tale of two markets — one made up of tech firms and online retailers as winners awash in capital, and another of brick-and-mortar mom-and-pop shops that is collapsing.

Why it matters: The coronavirus pandemic has created an environment where losing industries like traditional retail and hospitality as well as a sizable portion of firms owned by women, immigrants and people of color are wiped out and may be gone for good.

Survey: Fears grow about Social Security’s future

Data: AARP survey of 1,441 U.S. adults conducted July 14–27, 2020 a ±3.4% margin of error at the 95% confidence level; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Younger Americans are increasingly concerned that Social Security won't be enough to wholly fall back on once they retire, according to a survey conducted by AARP — in honor of today's 85th anniversary of the program — given first to Axios.

Why it matters: Young people's concerns about financial insecurity once they're on a restricted income are rising — and that generation is worried the program, which currently pays out to 65 million beneficiaries, won't be enough to sustain them.

SoftBank posts $12 billion in quarterly profits

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Yoshikazu Tsuno/Getty Images

SoftBank and its Vision Fund made a comeback this past quarter. But chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son has already moved on to a new project: a $550 million vehicle for investing in blue-chip public tech stocks like Facebook, Amazon and Apple.

Why it matters: This is part of Son’s ongoing plan to transform SoftBank Group into an investment company.

The magic of market timing

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Most companies want to maximize profits. This year, a lot of them are more interested in maximizing losses.

How it works: As part of the CARES stimulus bill that passed in March, companies' 2020 losses can be "carried backwards" — that is, they can be deducted from previous years' profits, including years when profits were taxed at 35%. (The corporate tax rate now is only 21%.)

21 hours ago - World

Arrest of Jimmy Lai highlights different kind of shareholder activism

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Next Digital is fighting for its life. One of the last truly independent media outlets in Hong Kong, its high-profile publisher, Jimmy Lai, was arrested this week as part of China's crackdown on pro-democracy activism.

Driving the news: Apple Daily, the company's flagship newspaper, is the most-read outlet in Hong Kong. Lai's arrest caused his company's stock to rise elevenfold in a single day, thanks to thousands of Hongkongers flocking to the market to bid up the shares.

The statistics crisis

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

If you don't know how broken something is, you're not going to be able to fix it. That's the crisis facing policymakers trying to repair a devastated economy without knowing the true degree to which the pandemic has hurt the country.

Why it matters: Some parts of what ails America, like the nascent mental-health crisis, are by their nature hard to measure. But other aspects of the recession, like the unemployment rate or national GDP, are foundational statistics upon which multi-trillion-dollar decisions are made.

Breaking down Uber and Lyft's threat to suspend services in California

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Uber and Lyft are ratcheting up the fight with California’s state government over the classification of drivers with a move that would deprive Californians of their ride-hailing services (and halt driver income).

Driving the news: On Wednesday, both companies said that if a court doesn’t overturn or further pause a new ruling forcing them to reclassify California drivers as employees, they’ll suspend their services in the state until November’s election, when voters could potentially exempt them by passing a ballot measure.

Palantir reportedly plans to go public via direct listing

Palantir CEO Alex Karp. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Palantir, the secretive data analysis software company best known for its contracts with government agencies, is reportedly planning to go public via direct listing in late September, according to Bloomberg.

Why it matters: This would be only the third company since 2018 to do a direct listing, after Spotify and Slack. The company is also in the process of raising $961 million, with $550 million of it already secured.

Chevron's venture capital arm buys stake in nuclear fusion startup Zap Energy

Photo Illustration: Walid Berrazeg/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Chevron is making a Series A investment in the three-year-old nuclear fusion startup Zap Energy, marking the latest foray by an oil-and-gas giant into companies outside a core business.

Why it matters: It's the first nuclear power investment from Chevron Technology Ventures, the company's in-house VC arm that's spreading money around a range of energy technologies.

The tough battle to regain clean energy jobs

Data: BW Research Partnership; Chart: Axios Visuals

The jobs rebound in clean energy sectors, broadly defined, slowed greatly last month, per a newly released analysis.

The big picture: Clean energy industries added just 3,200 jobs last month, far fewer than in June, according to the BW Research Partnership's analysis of unemployment claims.

BodyArmor takes aim at Gatorade's sports drink dominance

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

BodyArmor is making noise in the sports drink market, announcing seven new athlete partnerships last week, including Christian McCaffrey, Sabrina Ionescu and Ronald Acuña Jr.

Why it matters: It wants to market itself as a worthy challenger to the throne that Gatorade has occupied for nearly six decades.

Inflation rising fast after second-quarter collapse

Data: Investing.com; Chart: Axios Visuals

The consumer price index rose 0.6% last month for the second straight time, with gasoline accounting for a quarter of the gain. Core CPI, which strips out food and energy prices, jumped by 0.6%, marking the biggest gain since January 1991.

Why it matters: The back-to-back CPI increases combined with Tuesday's bounce back producer price index reading, suggest inflation is far from dead.

S&P 500's historic rebound leaves investors divided on future

Data: Money.net; Chart: Axios Visuals

The S&P 500 nearly closed at an all-time high on Wednesday and remains poised to go from peak to trough to peak in less than half a year.

By the numbers: Since hitting its low on March 23, the S&P has risen about 50%, with more than 40 of its members doubling, according to Bloomberg. The $12 trillion dollars of share value that vanished in late March has almost completely returned.

Newsrooms abandoned as pandemic drags on

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Facing enormous financial pressure and uncertainty around reopenings, media companies are giving up on their years-long building leases for more permanent work-from-home structures. Others are letting employees work remotely for the foreseeable future.

Why it matters: Real estate is often the most expensive asset that media companies own. And for companies that don't own their space, it's often the biggest expense.

The pandemic is hitting city budgets harder than the Great Recession

Data: National League of Cities; Chart: Axios Visuals

With tax revenue in free-fall and expenditures dramatically rising, the coronavirus pandemic is on pace to hit cities' finances even harder than the Great Recession.

Why it matters: Almost all cities are required to balance their budgets, and at this rate they'll have no choice but to cut more services, layoff or furlough more workers and freeze capital projects.

The statistics crisis

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

If you don't know how broken something is, you're not going to be able to fix it.

  • That's the crisis facing policymakers trying to repair a devastated economy without knowing the true degree to which the pandemic has hurt the country.

The pandemic real estate market

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

It's not just emotional buying, real estate agents say: There are smart and strategic reasons that Americans of all ages, races and incomes are moving away from urban centers.

Why it matters: Bidding wars, frantic plays for a big suburban house with a pool, buying a property sight unseen — they're all part of Americans' calculus that our lives and lifestyles have been permanently changed by coronavirus and that we'll need more space (indoors and out) for the long term.

U.S. budget deficit swells to $2.81 trillion

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

The U.S. budget deficit ballooned to $2.81 trillion from last October through July — a record for the budgetary period, per a Treasury statement published Wednesday.

Details: $63 billion was added to the deficit last month. That was the lowest monthly figure since the pandemic began, amid a fall in government spending and as the tax filing deadline was extended to July 15.

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