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Why America's post-vaccine summer is off to a slow start

Americans are itching to put pandemic life behind them, but many of the necessary ingredients for a summer of carefree fun — everything from neighborhood pools to car rentals — still aren't fully available.

The big picture: Labor shortages, scrambled supply chains and simple logistics are all making it harder for a whole range of businesses to meet post-pandemic demand, and that’s making “hot vax summer” a little harder to pull off.


Where it stands: A little vacation after a year stuck at home seems like a simple enough indulgence, but the travel industry is still facing some significant hurdles.

  • Airlines: "It's not like pilots can just flip a switch. And they throw the keys at us and we come back to work, right?" Air Lines Pilot Association President Joe DePete said on the Axios Re:Cap podcast. "There's a lot involved in that. There are security aspects, there are training aspects, there are medical aspects."
  • Rental cars: Rental companies sold off most of their fleets during the pandemic due to a lack of demand. And now a global chip shortage is squeezing the supply of new cars, making it hard for rental agencies to restock as demand increases.
  • Not to mention, everything’s already booked: Hotels, campsites and Airbnb rentals are all hard to come by, especially in the most popular destinations.

Even staycations are subject to some of the same challenges.

  • Live entertainment: Many smaller venues didn't survive the pandemic, and mounting a stage production or a tour for a band is hard work. "Our industry can't just reopen on a week or two weeks notice, we need three to six months," said Dayna Frank, CEO of the historic First Avenue venue in Minneapolis on the Axios Re:Cap podcast last week.
  • Restaurants say they’re having a hard time filling open jobs, although the hospitality sector added more jobs than any other part of the economy last month — 292,000, about two-thirds of which were in "food and drinking places."
  • Pools in many parts of the country are having a hard time hiring lifeguards, and are either limiting their hours or keeping some locations closed as a result.

Yes, but: Post-pandemic job turnover also has many higher-stakes implications, including for child care and health care.

  • "Nurses and dental hygienists, they don't necessarily stay in the industry all that long ... I think we will also have some supply constraints potentially in that industry," said Martin Baily, an economist at the Brookings Institution.

The bottom line: "With people switching occupations, jobs being in different geographic places, and people needing to learn to work with technology in new ways — all of this is going to create a lot of churn and disruption in the near-term, meaning the next year or two or three," said Susan Lund, a leading partner for the McKinsey Global Institute.

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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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