Lower Gas Prices, Job Stability Could Spark Travel and Jobs

A recent decline in gas prices and improving job security could entice more Americans to take advantage of vacation days during the upcoming peak travel season, which begins with the Memorial Day holiday.  An increase in summer travel is likely to result in more job creation, according to one employment expert, who noted that the leisure and hospitality industry is already seeing a hiring surge.

“While hiring has not exactly taken off, downsizing activity remains relatively low and many employers are actually worried about losing talent.  This is not to say that job security has returned to pre-recession levels, but workers certainly are enjoying more security than two years ago.  Concerns about future layoffs and personal finances may keep many summer travelers close to home.  However, the impact on the economy will be positive, nonetheless,” according to John Challenger, chief executive officer of global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Indeed, monthly job cuts have slowed significantly since the recession officially ended in 2009.  From January 2010 through April 2012, employers have announced an average of 47,000 per month.  In contrast, monthly job cuts in 2008 and 2009 averaged nearly 105,000.  The fact is, job cuts are the lowest they have been since the high-flying economy of the late 1990s.

The decline in downsizing notwithstanding, it is the decline in gas prices that could have the biggest impact on American’s vacation plans.  Prospects were certainly much dimmer on April 6, when the national average for a gallon of gas reached a 2012 peak of $3.94.  However, the price has since dropped to $3.73 and several projections have theU.S.average falling to $3.50 this summer, with some states enjoying prices closer to $3.00.

“Lower gas prices make it far less painful for families to hop in the car and get out of town for a long weekend.  It certainly gives Americans more money to spend on a day-to-day basis, whether they are on vacation or not.  Lower gas prices also mean lower costs for businesses that are heavy users of fuel.  The money these businesses save on fuel can go toward hiring extra workers,” said Challenger.

Despite the fact that gasoline prices have not yet reached their low point, the number of people planning on getting away over Memorial Day weekend is up from a year ago, according to a report from AAA.  It estimates that 34.8 million Americans will take trips of at least 50 miles, with nearly 31 million of those driving.

Anticipation for a stronger travel season has led to an early hiring surge in the leisure and hospitality sector.  These employers hired 804,000 workers in March, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey.  That was up from 691,000 hired in March 2011.  In addition to the 804,000 hired in March, employers in leisure and hospitality still had 423,000 job openings at the end of the month.

As for vacationing workers, Challenger said that while job security is improving, it is still recommended that they keep the lines of communication open with their employers.

“You don’t have to spend a part of every vacation day working, but you want to take your cell phone and laptop and make an effort to occasionally check in with the office.  If you are a team manager, stay in touch with your team members.  Make sure supervisors know your e-mail and cell phone number just in case you are needed,” said Challenger.

“As employers continue the shift toward retention mode, many will be eager to let workers enjoy vacations without interruptions from work, but make no mistake, your efforts to remain connected, even if unnecessary, will be appreciated and remembered.

“Technology has become so portable and so affordable that there really is no excuse anymore for not staying in touch.  Smartphones and tablet computers make it easy to stay connected anywhere with internet access,” he concluded.


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