Updated May 12, 2018

How we’re reading: The new eyeglass giant

At the launch of Vogue Eyewear. Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images

Two of the world's leading eyeglass companies are about to merge, creating the closest thing to a monopoly the industry has ever seen, reports the Guardian.

Why it matters: "Around 1.4 billion of us rely on their products ... Last year, the two companies had a combined customer base that is somewhere between Apple’s and Facebook's," writes the Guardian's Sam Knight.

The merger...

  • Italy's Luxottica, the world's largest maker of spectacles, and France's Essilor, the biggest lens maker, are merging to form spectacles behemoth EssilorLuxottica.
  • EU and U.S. regulators approved the move on March 1.

By the numbers...

  • Their merger will form a $55 billion company, per Reuters, that employs more than 140,000 people and sells nearly a billion pairs of glasses and frames each year.
  • The scale of their businesses: Luxottica has 9,000 retail stories and makes glasses for Ray-Ban, Vogue, Prada, Oliver Peoples, Lenscrafter, Sunglass Hut, and it also runs John Lewis Opticians in the U.K.
  • Yes, but: "The new firm will not technically be a monopoly: Essilor currently has around 45% of the prescription lenses market, and Luxottica 25% of the frames."

The market...

  • About 70% of adults in developed countries use glasses to see better, and the market for glasses is $100 billion per year.
  • "In 2018, an estimated 2.5 billion people, mostly in India, Africa and China, are thought to need spectacles, but have no means to have their eyes tested or to buy them."
  • "The history of eyewear tells us that people do not, as a rule, start wearing glasses because they notice everything has gone a little out of focus. It is in order to take part in new forms of entertainment and labour."
  • "The mass market in spectacles did not emerge when they were invented, in 13th-century Italy, but 200 years later, alongside the printed word in Germany, because people wanted to read."

The backdrop...

  • "For a long time, scientists thought [myopia, or shortsightedness] was primarily determined by our genes.
  • "But about 10 years ago, it became clear that the way children were growing up was harming their eyesight, too."
  • "In the 1950s, between 10% and 20% of Chinese people were shortsighted. Now, among teenagers and young adults, the proportion is more like 90%. In Seoul, 95% of 19-year-old men are myopic, many of them severely, and at risk of blindness later in life."

Go deeper

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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Venture capital is beginning a belated conversation about its dearth of black investors and support of black founders, but hasn't yet turned its attention to the trivial participation of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) as limited partners in funds.

Why it matters: This increases educational and economic inequality, as the vast majority of VC profits go to limited partners.

Unemployment rate falls to 13.3% in May

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals

The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 13.3% in May, with 2.5 million jobs gained, the government said on Friday.

Why it matters: The far better-than-expected numbers show a surprising improvement in the job market, which has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.

The difficulty of calculating the real unemployment rate

Data: U.S. Department of Labor; Note: Initial traditional state claims from the weeks of May 23 and 30, continuing traditional claims from May 23. Initial PUA claims from May 16, 23, and 30, continuing PUA and other programs from May 16; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The shocking May jobs report — with a decline in the unemployment rate to 13.3% and more than 2 million jobs added — destroyed expectations of a much worse economic picture.

Why it matters: Traditional economic reports have failed to keep up with the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic and have made it nearly impossible for researchers to determine the state of the U.S. labor market or the economy.