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Construction sector sheds workers amid insatiable building demand

Here’s a surprising detail from Friday's jobs report: America is seeing insatiable building demand, but the sector that most directly benefits is shedding workers.

Why it matters: A material crunch and supply chain mess are holding down job gains.


Driving the news: The construction sector shed 20,000 jobs in May.

  • In April, the industry (on net) added no jobs at all.

What’s happening: Last month’s losses were almost entirely driven by a steep decline of specialty trade contractors. Think roofers, drywallers or pipefitters — specifically those working on commercial projects.

  • "A lot of it could be ... getting [construction] materials on job sites," Labor Secretary Marty Walsh told CNBC Friday.

The big picture: Home prices nationally rose the most since 2005, data out last week showed — a byproduct of strong demand, but not enough supply.

  • Commercial building — particularly for fulfillment or data centers — is heating up too, says Anirban Basu, chief economist at Associated Builders and Contractors, an industry trade group.

But, but, but: Builders are struggling to source crucial materials like lumber, iron and steel — and prices for them have skyrocketed.

How it's playing out: "Projects are being postponed, then, of course, some construction workers are being released from employment," says Basu.

What to watch: Residential construction added a mere 1,900 jobs last month, a slower pace than what the country’s housing boom might suggest, Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s chief economist, told Housing Wire.

Why the startup world needs to ditch "unicorns" for "dragons"

When Aileen Lee originally coined the term "unicorn" in late 2013, she was describing the 39 "U.S.-based software companies started since 2003 and valued at over $1 billion by public or private market investors."

Flashback: It got redefined in early 2015 by yours truly and Erin Griffith, in a cover story for Fortune, as any privately-held startup valued at $1 billion or more. At the time, we counted 80 of them.

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Scoop: Facebook's new moves to lower News Feed's political volume

Facebook plans to announce that it will de-emphasize political posts and current events content in the News Feed based on negative user feedback, Axios has learned. It also plans to expand tests to limit the amount of political content that people see in their News Feeds to more countries outside of the U.S.

Why it matters: The changes could reduce traffic to some news publishers, particularly companies that post a lot of political content.

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Scoop: Amazon quietly getting into live audio business

Amazon is investing heavily in a new live audio feature that's similar to other live audio offerings like Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces and Spotify's new live audio platform, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: As with Amazon's efforts in podcasting and music subscriptions, the company sees live audio as a way to bolster the types of content it can offer through its voice assistant, Alexa, and its smart speaker products.

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Hurricane Ida exposes America's precarious energy infrastructure

The powerful hurricane that plunged New Orleans into darkness for what could be weeks is the latest sign that U.S. power systems are not ready for a warmer, more volatile world.

The big picture: “Our current infrastructure is not adequate when it comes to these kinds of weather extremes,” Joshua Rhodes, a University of Texas energy expert, tells Axios.

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"We must go further": 70% of adults in European Union are fully vaccinated

About 70% of adults in the European Union are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said Tuesday.

Why it matters: The milestone makes the E.U. one of the world's leaders in inoculations, after an initially lagging vaccine campaign, the New York Times notes.

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What Elizabeth Holmes jurors will be asked ahead of fraud trial

Jury selection begins today in USA v. Elizabeth Holmes, with the actual jury trial to get underway on Sept. 8.

Why it matters: Theranos was the biggest fraud in Silicon Valley history, putting both hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of patients' health at risk.

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