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July 30, 2020

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🤕 I'm taking my monthly Axios "mental health day" tomorrow, so Courtenay Brown will be handling the newsletter. I'll be back in your inbox on Monday.

🎙 "I ride dirty every day, but still I shine so clean. Glitter and gleam ain't all what it look like. So I keep swanging, out here clanging trying to live my life." - See who said it and why it matters at the bottom.

1 big thing: The lasting damage already done

Data: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals

Three separate times during his prepared remarks yesterday Fed chair Jerome Powell mentioned "lasting damage to the economy" as a worry and a reason to continue providing support through fiscal and monetary policy.

  • But experts say the damage already has been done and the question now is just how much.

What it means: The labor market is changing and many who have lost their jobs are unlikely to get them back. Ever.

  • Specifically, economists worry that many who leave the labor force — especially mothers, older workers, minorities, and many who were outside the labor force and had only recently gotten jobs — will return to the sidelines for good.

Case in point: Economist Betsey Stevenson sees a long-simmering child care crisis that could have a significant impact on the number of parents, especially mothers, working over the next 20–30 years.

  • “We are letting the whole child care system erode in such a way that it’s not going to be there for us when we are fully ready to go back," she told Politico.
  • "You’re seeing child care centers that can’t stay in business. They can’t figure out how to reopen. They can’t keep their employees on staff. They’re letting people go."

Additionally, Black workers are significantly underrepresented in "remote-compatible jobs," and were also especially prone to the “last hired, first fired” trend that has meant Black unemployment rebounds more slowly than white unemployment following recessions, the Dallas Fed noted in a recent blog.

  • "The benefit that [Black people] received from the tight labor market in recent years may dissipate as the economy falters."

By the numbers: The U.S. labor force participation rate saw its largest decline ever from February to March and has not recovered much of that ground, even as the unemployment rate has declined.

Between the lines: The Hamilton Project's Wendy Edelberg and Jay Shambaugh warn "widespread bankruptcies could fundamentally change the business landscape," leading to a substantial imbalance between companies and workers.

  • "The COVID-19 recession is going to have scarring effects both on the business landscape and labor markets, and policy makers need to be preparing for those effects now," Edelberg told Axios earlier this month.

The big picture: Americans who have lost their jobs are losing hope. In April, 78% of those in households with a job loss assumed it was temporary.

  • As of July, 47% think that lost job is definitely or probably not coming back, according to the latest poll from AP.

2. Catch up quick

Americans currently owe more than $21.5 billion in past-due rent, a global advisory firm estimated. (Reuters)

Analysts expect data released today will show U.S. economic growth declined by 35% in Q2, while new claims for jobless benefits last week were again close to 1.5 million. (AFP)

The chair of the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee Wednesday said some Big Tech companies need to be broken up, and asserted that Facebook has grown too big to contain dangerous content. (Axios)

3. Powell warns of worsening economic crisis, stocks rise

The Fed's latest policy meeting Wednesday was a somber one for Powell, as he called this recession the most severe “in our lifetime,” but it was good for the stock market and risk assets.

What he said: “The path forward for the economy is extraordinarily uncertain, and will depend in large part on our success in keeping the virus in check."

  • “Even if the reopening goes well — and many, many people go back to work — it is still going to take a fairly long time for parts of the economy that involve lots of people getting together in close proximity” to recover.
  • “Those people are going to need support.”

What the market heard: Stocks rose, oil prices jumped, high-yield bond prices gained and the dollar hit a two-year low as Powell's tone and commitment to “do what we can, and for as long as it takes” prompted traders to buy risky assets.

  • Powell's comment that Fed policymakers aren't even "thinking about thinking about thinking about" raising U.S. interest rates — one "thinking about" more than he asserted at the central bank's last policy meeting — made clear the Fed would remain accommodative.

What to watch: “Powell’s press conference was very much a moment of truth,” Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics, told Bloomberg.

  • “I struggle to recall a time at which Powell, or any recent Fed chair, was as direct and candid about the urgency of fiscal stimulus to support the recovery and prevent a double-dip recession.”

4. Axios Harris Poll 100: Corporate trust soars during pandemic

Data: Harris Poll COVID19 Tracker Wave 20; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Harris Poll COVID19 Tracker Wave 20; Chart: Axios Visuals

Axios' Sara Fischer writes: The public's view of almost every industry has improved since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new Axios/Harris poll. Industries with a prominent role in life under quarantine have seen especially big jumps.

Why it matters: Businesses in America were already undergoing a transformation from being solely focused on profits to being focused on values as well. The coronavirus pandemic has expedited that shift, and consumers are responding favorably to it.

Details: The poll ranks the top 100 companies, based on consumers' scores across 7 qualities: affinity (trust), citizenship, ethics, culture, vision, growth and products and services. Affinity is weighted higher than all other categories.

Leading the index are companies that have focused on solving problems related to the coronavirus.

  • Grocers, including Publix, Wegmans and Kroger, are among the highest-ranking companies, as are delivery companies like Fedex, Amazon and UPS.
  • Consumer packaged goods companies that focus on cleaning and kids, like Clorox, Hersey's, Disney and Procter & Gamble ranked in the top 25.
  • Streaming giants like Netflix, followed by Hulu and Disney ranked in the top 25 due to the streaming offerings they provide to consumers stuck at home.
  • Pharmacies, including Walgreens and CVS, also scored well on consumer trust, culture and ethics.

By the numbers: According to the poll, 75% of consumers agree that generally speaking, during the COVID-19 pandemic and related shutdowns, "companies were more reliable than the federal government in keeping America running."

  • 81% of consumers agree that large companies, with resources, expensive infrastructure and advanced logistics, "are even more vital now to America's future than before the pandemic."

Yes, but: Certain industries have fared worse. The telecom, social media and airlines industries rank in the bottom 20 of the top 100 companies ranked.

  • Social companies like Twitter and Facebook rank in the bottom 10 of the list, and are viewed slightly less favorably now than before the pandemic.
  • Airline companies like Boeing and United Airlines rank in the bottom 20.
  • Telecom companies like Comcast, AT&T and Charter Communications do as well.

What's next: Overwhelmingly, the poll finds that consumers approve of companies that address social and societal issues. These expectations are likely to last long after the initial phase of the pandemic.

Of note: This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by The Harris Poll from July 10 to 12 among a nationally representative sample of 1,974 adults. See more here. Read the Axios/Harris Poll 100 report here.

5. Stock bulls could see stock market "Superfecta"

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Even if the real economy is in shambles, that doesn't mean the stock market can't rise. And U.S. equities look primed for a "Superfecta," Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist at the Leuthold Group, writes in a note to clients.

What it means: Superfecta is a horse racing term in which a bettor correctly picks the first four finishers in exact order.

  • "And today, the stock market is enjoying its own Superfecta of positive forces which can win in any order — widespread investor fears, an unprecedented policy push, a significant economic bounce from the ‘lockdown recession’ and an economy with so much room for improvement (starting with a double-digit unemployment rate)," Paulsen says.
  • (Yes, but: Points three and four are kind of the same thing...)

Driving the news: The S&P rallied 1.24% on Wednesday, and while U.S. lawmakers remain deadlocked on new relief measures, Wall Street analysts remain confident Congress will produce a new bill.

The big picture: "Although the stock market will certainly experience pullbacks, disappointments and corrections along the way, the horses have just begun this race and investors should be wary of cashing in a winning Superfecta ticket too early," Paulsen notes.

Thanks for reading!

Quote: "I ride dirty every day, but still I shine so clean. Glitter and gleam, ain't all what it look like. So I keep swanging, out here clanging trying to live my life."

Why it matters: On July 30, 1996, legendary Houston rap duo UGK (the Underground Kingz) released their third album, "Ridin' Dirty." Despite no music videos, national exposure or official singles being released, it sold nearly 1 million copies.

Translation: For those unfamiliar with the Kingz' Southern vernacular, the late great Chad "Pimp C" Butler is telling a story while contrasting the clean or wealthy image he projects with the dirty, illicit and difficult life he's leading.

  • To "ride dirty" is to drive with something illegal in the car, typical drugs or a firearm, while "shining so clean" refers to driving an expensive and shiny automobile.
  • Swanging means driving slow in a flashy or opulent manner, while clanging implies doing what it takes to survive.