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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Transportation official: Los Angeles is using driverless technology to improve pedestrian safety

Joann Muller (L) and Seleta Reynolds (R). Photo: Axios

Pedestrian safety sits at the forefront of planning for the adoption of autonomous vehicles in Los Angeles, the city's general manager of the Transportation Department, Seleta Reynolds, said on Tuesday during a virtual Axios event.

Catch up quick: Reynolds said that the lesson learned from working with auto manufacturers, software creators and USDOT for four to five years is "that we probably wouldn't be able to rely on [autonomous vehicles] to solve pedestrian safety, and instead, we would need to take those kinds of things back into our own hands."

Updated 56 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 p.m. ET: 20,158,258 — Total deaths: 738,063 — Total recoveries: 12,388,686Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 p.m. ET: 5,116,791 — Total deaths: 164,137 — Total recoveries: 1,670,755 — Total tests: 62,513,174Map.
  3. States: Florida reports another daily record for deaths State testing plans fall short of demand.
  4. Axios-Ipsos poll: 1 in 2 has a personal connection to COVID-19.
  5. Business: Moderna reveals it may not hold patent rights for vaccine.
  6. 🏈 Sports: Big Ten scraps fall football season due to coronavirus.
3 hours ago - Science

SpaceX and ULA pull in huge defense contracts

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket takes flight. Photo: SpaceX

The Space Force's announcement last week that United Launch Alliance and SpaceX will launch expensive spy satellites and other military payloads brings a long and often fierce battle for government funds to an end — at least for now.

Why it matters: This type of government money — particularly in light of the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic — is key for space companies that often work on thin margins.

Expert: Policy for autonomous vehicle industry is "like the Wild West"

Joann Muller (R) and Selika Josiah Talbott (L). Photo: Axios screenshot

A lack of federal policy has hampered the autonomous car industry's transparency with communities where the vehicles are tested, American University professor Selika Josiah Talbott said during a virtual Axios event on Tuesday.

What she's saying: "We need guidelines. Right now, it's like the Wild West. We need bumpers in place so we don't have rogue actions testing vehicles on the roadway and possibly causing harm to the general public," Talbott said.

Video rentals rise as theater windows shrink

Annelise Capossela/Axios

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated a trend of studios pushing more movies to be made available for a premium rental price via a ticketed on-demand deal.

What they're saying: "With film fans spending more time at home, we have seen steady growth on both our FandangoNOW and Vudu platforms,” says Fandango Home Entertainment Vice President Cameron Douglas.

National Governors Association leaders express concern over Trump's unemployment order

President Trump at a press briefing on Aug. 10. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump's executive action calling on states to provide 25% of an additional $400 in weekly unemployment benefits poses "significant administrative burdens and costs," according to a bipartisan letter from the leaders of the National Governors Association.

Why it matters: Many states have had their budgets decimated by the coronavirus pandemic and cannot afford pitching in an $100 extra per unemployed resident. Several state unemployment offices told Axios that they don't even know how the program works, and that any changes to state unemployment systems would take weeks to implement.

Adobe: E-commerce growth slows as stores reopen

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

E-commerce sales are still way up compared to a year ago in the U.S., but growth moderated in July as more traditional stores reopened, according to fresh data from Adobe.

Why it matters: Undoubtedly some of the shifts to online shopping will be permanent, but the numbers suggest that consumers want to do a certain amount of their buying in-person.

Scoop: New York Times exploring a Wirecutter subscription

Data: NYT earnings reports; Chart: Axios Visuals

The New York Times is in the early stages of researching a consumer subscription for its product recommendation site Wirecutter, according to a job description posted on LinkedIn.

Why it matters: A central part of The Times' subscription strategy is providing services for people outside of news. More than 1/3 of The Times' net new subscriptions last quarter came from services outside of its core news product, like Cooking and Games (Crosswords).

NBC News plans virtual coverage for 2020 conventions

Photo: NBC News

NBC News and MSNBC are doubling down on digital and remote TV coverage of this year's conventions in an effort to bring as much information to voters as possible, while acclimating to the virtual nature of this year's events.

The big picture: The remote nature of the convention presents enormous challenges, but "this forced transition for the conventions will mean the plans for the next four years might become more creative," says Chuck Todd, moderator of Meet the Press and NBC News’ Political Director.

Exclusive: Facebook cracks down on political content disguised as local news

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Facebook is rolling out a new policy that will prevent U.S. news publishers with "direct, meaningful ties" to political groups from claiming the news exemption within its political ads authorization process, executives tell Axios.

Why it matters: Since the 2016 election, reporters and researchers have uncovered over 1,200 instances in which political groups use websites disguised as local news outlets to push their point of view to Americans.

Nikola stock surge shows power of corporate buys of electric vehicles

Data: Yahoo Finance; Chart: Axios Visuals

The electric truck startup Nikola Motors' stock surged 22% Monday and the company now has a market capitalization of $17 billion. That's pretty, pretty good considering they have basically no revenue yet.

Driving the news: The bump came after Monday's announcement that the waste management company Republic Services has ordered at least 2,500 electric garbage trucks, with deliveries slated to start in 2023.

Historic beats have earnings paced to exceed already awful expectations

S&P 500 companies' earnings in the second quarter have been historically good and also historically bad.

What's happening: Earnings are still on pace to be awful, but they are handily beating even more awful expectations from analysts.

Hyundai and Aptiv name their self-driving company Motional

Motional is the name for the new self-driving joint venture between Hyundai and Aptiv. (Photo courtesy of Motional)

Hyundai and Aptiv announced Tuesday that their new autonomous driving joint venture will be called Motional and aims to introduce driverless vehicles for ride-hailing fleets by 2022.

Why it matters: Interest in robotaxis had been pushed aside lately by the autonomous vehicle industry in favor of automated trucks and delivery vehicles, partly because the need for contactless delivery seems more immediate during the pandemic.

JOLTS report shows far fewer jobs added in June

Data: FRED; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

The June reading of the Labor Department's Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey showed substantially less jobs were added in June than the department's nonfarm payrolls report.

By the numbers: The JOLTS report showed 6.70 million hires, down by 503,000 from the month before, and there were 4.76 million separations, up 522,000 from May.

The hard seltzer wars are heating up

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Competition in the hard seltzer market is heating up in the closing weeks of summer, as big companies like Constellation Brands, AB InBev and Molson Coors have entered the market and Coca-Cola is poised to join the fray in 2021.

Why it matters: The coronavirus pandemic has increased alcohol sales overall and hard seltzers are exploding in popularity and look to have staying power, boasting record high sales in recent weeks.

A quandary for state unemployment agencies

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

State agencies charged with paying unemployment benefits to jobless residents have their backs against the wall as they rush to parse President Trump's executive actions on coronavirus aid.

Why it matters: States are being asked to pitch in $100 per unemployed resident, but it’s a heavy lift for cash-strapped states that are still unclear about the details and may not opt-in at all. It leaves the states and jobless residents in a state of limbo.

Trump trounces Biden in campaign site traffic, thanks to far-right outlets

Data: SimilarWeb; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Traffic to President Trump's presidential campaign website is more than 4x greater than traffic to Joe Biden's presidential campaign website, thanks in large part to traffic referrals from right-wing outlets like The Gateway Pundit and Citizen Free Press, according to data from SimilarWeb.

Why it matters: The data speaks to the enormous role the far-right web plays in promoting the president's ideas and his re-election campaign.

Death spiral for consumers

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Despite some recent good news about dwindling household debt, the financial health of U.S. consumers is rapidly deteriorating — and families with children are faring the worst.

Why it matters: As Congress deadlocks over pandemic relief and President Trump issues executive orders of dubious potency, many Americans are suffering from a quintuple whammy: unemployment, overdue rent, mounting bills, food insecurity and health fears.

11 hours ago - Health

Moderna reveals it may not hold patent rights for coronavirus vaccine

Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Moderna said in new financial filings that it "cannot be certain that we were the first to make the inventions claimed in our patents or pending patent applications" — including the company's experimental coronavirus vaccine.

Why it matters: This disclosure comes six weeks after Axios and Public Citizen highlighted how the National Institutes of Health may hold joint ownership claims for this particular vaccine.

A big hiring pledge from New York CEOs

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Leaders of more than two dozen of the New York City area's largest employers — including JPMorgan Chase, Ernst & Young, IBM, McKinsey & Company and Accenture — aim to hire 100,000 low-income residents and people of color by 2030 and will help prep them for tech jobs.

Why it matters: As the city's economy has boomed, many New Yorkers have been left behind — particularly during the pandemic. The hiring initiative marks an unusual pact among firms, some of them competitors, to address systemic unemployment.

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