Consumers have seen gas prices fall after the temporary supply disruptions caused by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and they say they are more optimistic about the economy, according to the latest national NACS Consumer Fuels Survey from The Association for Convenience and Fuel Retailing.
Americans say that they have seen gas prices fall 9 cents to $2.50 per gallon over the past month, and one in four (24 percent) expect prices to continue to fall this month, far higher than the number who normally say gas prices will decrease this time of the year. In October 2016, only 11 percent of Americans said they thought gas prices would decline that month.
This sentiment is particularly strong in the South, the region most impacted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. A third (34 percent) of Southern gas purchasers say they believe prices will drop in the next 30 days.
Lower gas prices have boosted consumer optimism over the economy. Consumer optimism shot up seven points to 61 percent from September’s reading of 54 percent, the highest level recorded since March 2017. Men are significantly more optimistic than women (68 percent vs. 56 percent) but there are no significant differences by age group. Consumer optimism is strongest in the South (64 percent) and Northeast (64 percent), and slightly weaker in the Midwest (59 percent) and West (58 percent).
Overall, three in four (76 percent) consumers say that gas prices impact their feelings about the economy, and that is particularly true among younger consumers. Nearly nine in 10 Americans (87 percent) ages 18 to 34 say that gas prices affect their economic confidence. Similarly, the drop in prices also affects their spending: 37 percent of this age group say they will drive more this month, and 24 percent say they will spend more this month than last month.
“Sales at convenience stores are directly tied to the economy, fuel prices and the weather. The return of consumer confidence is great news as we start the fourth quarter of 2017,” said Jeff Lenard, NACS VP of strategic industry initiatives.
In preparation for—and in response to—the hurricane season (defined as June 1 to November 30), NACS says it continues to work with its partners at the American Red Cross to help collect donations for areas impacted by the hurricanes. NACS also has developed resources to assist retailers and others with disaster recovery and relief.
The survey was conducted online by PSB (Penn Schoen Berland); 1,103 U.S. adults who purchase fuel for a vehicle such as a car, truck or van at least once per month were surveyed Oct. 3-6, 2017.