Are gas prices and inflation causing people to cancel their summer travel plans?

A majority of Utah residents are now considering cutting back or postponing their summer travel plans in the face of continued inflationary pressures and record high gasoline prices, according to new polling data.

And, the survey results align with local and national measures of consumer sentiment that hit historic lows in June when it comes to the collective outlook on economic conditions.

A statewide Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll of 808 registered voters, conducted June 16-29, found that gas prices and inflation are the most important considerations for decide whether or not to travel in the next three months.

Gasoline prices were ranked at the top for 53% of respondents and inflation was the No. 1 concern for 41% of survey participants. COVID-19 case levels and hotel availability each drew the highest ratings of concern from 18% of respondents, although almost a third indicated that the ongoing pandemic was not a consideration in their decision. travel.

The new polling data, collected by Dan Jones & Associates, comes with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.45 percentage points.

Inflation rates in the United States dipped briefly in April, but fell back to a 40-year high of 8.6% in May, according to the latest Consumer Price Index report from the US Department of Labor. .

The Mountain West states, which include Utah, continued to show one of the highest regional inflations in the country, with average prices for goods and services rising 9.4% in May from 9.8 % in April.

U.S. consumers are now paying for groceries that are up 11.9% from last year, gasoline that’s up 48.7% from 2021, and housing costs that are up 5.5% since May 2021.

Prices for new and used vehicles also continue to climb, up 12.6% and 16.1%, respectively.

Rampant inflation in the United States is putting great pressure on families, forcing them to pay far more for food, gas and rent and reducing their ability to afford discretionary items, from haircuts to appliances emails through the holidays. Low-income and black and Hispanic Americans, in particular, are struggling because, on average, a greater proportion of their income is consumed by necessities.

And while the national average price of gasoline has fallen in recent weeks since hitting the $5 per gallon mark nationwide last month, Utah drivers have continued to encounter record prices at their local pumps.

On Friday, AAA reported that the average U.S. price for a gallon of regular fuel was now $4.72 a gallon and down from a record high of $5.02 a gallon in mid-June. In Utah, the average price per gallon on Friday was $5.22, pennies below the all-time high of $5.26 set on July 1.

And, data gathered in the new Deseret News poll found that Utahans are feeling that added cost in ways that are driving changes to their summer travel itineraries.

Asked by pollsters how current gas prices will impact their travel plans this summer, 47% of respondents said they were likely to take fewer trips, 31% said shorter trips were 17% said they were likely to postpone planned trips. and 11% said they would likely cancel summer travel outright.

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Phil Dean, senior economist at the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, reviewed the survey results and said the responses from Utah consumers align with the kinds of behavioral changes that economists expect to see among the prices of consumer goods and services that have soared. at a record pace in recent months.

“It’s no surprise how much of a direct impact higher prices have on how Utah residents think about their summer travel plans,” Dean said. “Costs of basic necessities are on the rise, and these are the areas where we really feel the most. Every time you’re at the pump, you get a reminder of how things are. »

Dean also noted that a recent measure of consumer sentiment in the state reflects some of the same concerns Utahn shared in the new Deseret News poll.

June data collected by the Gardner Institute found that Utah consumer sentiment fell nearly five points from May to June when asked about the state’s short-term economic outlook at 64 .4, the lowest measure since the monthly survey began in 2020. And Utahans are even less optimistic about the country’s economic outlook which has earned it a confidence rating of 54.1 in June.

A similar survey from the University of Michigan found a larger drop in sentiment in June among Americans as a whole. June’s National Consumer Sentiment Index reflects the lowest reading in Michigan’s 70-year survey history.

“Unsurprisingly, consumers from all walks of life remain very frustrated with high inflation. Indeed, anyone under the age of 40 has never seen such high rates in their lifetime,” Dean said in a statement to the sentiment report. “This high inflation includes many everyday items, including $5 a gallon gas and high food prices. Persistently high prices force consumers to refocus their short-term thinking on today’s purchases and wages, and sows uncertainty about the long-term future.

While some economists are predicting that the United States is on the verge of a recession, Dean says he still remains optimistic that this can be avoided and noted that there are signs that price pressures are attenuating.

Dean is also optimistic, with some caveats, about the ability of the state’s overall economy to weather another downturn, should one occur.

“Utah remains very well located from an economic standpoint,” he said. “We are not an island and national and global economic conditions affect us. But, we still have a lot of growth potential ahead of us and a young, well-educated population, compared to many places. And we have a lower running cost.

“My biggest concern, both short-term and long-term, about the trajectory of our state economy is housing affordability and ensuring that we take care of it.”

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