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Data: Morning Consult/Axios Inequality Index; Chart: Axios Visuals

Inequality widened in September, driven by income losses and fears among the most financially vulnerable, according to the latest Morning Consult/Axios Inequality Index released today.

Why it matters: As COVID continues to spread, expanded pandemic-era unemployment benefits expired this month, removing a financial safety net for 7.5 million Americans.

  • Worsening inequality underscores the role the enhancements played for those at the low end of the income spectrum, Morning Consult chief economist John Leer tells Axios.
  • “What’s particularly different right now — if you connect the economic reality with the policy situation — is that those folks who experienced pay and income losses don’t have unemployment insurance benefits to help support them and support their finances," Leer says.

How the index works: It compares sentiment between income groups based on consumer confidence, employment outcomes, employment expectations and financial vulnerability. The larger the gaps, the higher the inequality level.

  • The overall index widened to 7.23% from 6.52% in August.

What they found: The Delta variant's impact on employment is worsening, especially in customer-facing service sectors where consumer confidence also factors in.

  • For example, the share of food and beverage workers reporting income losses shot up to 26.5%, from 19.1% in the span of four weeks. These are typically lower-paying jobs so the gap in income losses between someone making less than $50,000 and a person making more than $100,000 increased to 4.5%.
  • Paying bills is getting harder for some. The number of people who say they can't afford a month of basic expenses rose to 31.1% from 29% for those earning less than $50,000 — and fell to 5.3% from 9.8% for those earning above $100,000.

Go deeper: Retail sales increase despite low expectations from Delta

Go deeper

Oct 20, 2021 - Health

The global coronavirus vaccine gap

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The world still needs more coronavirus vaccines, particularly low-income countries. Pressure is increasing on the Biden administration to close the gap — and the Biden administration, in turn, is pushing Moderna to fill it.

Why it matters: Getting global vaccination rates as high as possible isn't just a humanitarian effort; it also reduces the risk of vaccine-resistant variants emerging.

"Atmospheric river" to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood

A map depicting 24-hour preciptation forecast (inches) ending Monday at 5a.m. local time. Photo: NOAA

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are set dump historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.

10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves to be removed after fires

A firefighter looks up at a giant sequoia tree after fire burned through the Sequoia National Forest near California Hot Springs, California, on Sept. 23. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

"Upwards of" 10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves have been "weakened by drought, disease, age, and/or fire" and must be removed in the wake of California's wildfires, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks announced.

Why it matters: The damage to these trees, considered "national treasures," and work to remove them means a nearby key highway must remain closed to visitors as they have "the potential to strike people, cars, other structures, or create barriers to emergency response services," per a statement from the national parks.

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