Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Getting Full on Filling Up?

In a general survey conducted by the temporary employment giant, Manpower, and published in the academic trade journal T&D, high gas prices are having an enormous impact both on the balance workers are finding between their jobs and work and, perhaps more importantly, that some employees, even those who are relatively satisfied with their current positions, are looking for employment closer to home. According to this survey of 900 folks, 65% claim they “have reduced their spending on entertainment and hobbies, 29 percent have cancelled their summer travel plans, and another 29 percent have restricted their children’s extracurricular activities” (T&D 2006).

Oh, yeah, did you happen to see that citation? This survey is from 2006 when the average cost for a gallon of fuel in the United States was $3 and was causing mild panic.

In my opinion, $3 per gallon on average was enough to get people thinking, enough, at least enough to fearfully respond to this survey about their plans and projections. What this survey did not analyze was the retroactive effect of these higher gasoline prices and how they had an impact on what really happened as opposed to what the respondents speculated upon; did these people truly cancel their summer plans and nix the idea of summer camp three states away or were things not quite scary enough then to make a big difference? Did they eventually just decide to suck it up and pay the pump after all?

At what point, or, better yet, at what price, does gas really need to be before we genuinely do alter our plans for recreational travel and activities? Is the current $4.10 national average going to do it or is $10 per gallon enough to break us?

There is a lot of moaning going on, but consider this, “the number of Americans traveling more than 50 miles from their home is expected to drop by 1 percent this year [2008], to about 38 million travelers” (Crouch 2008) and although the article recognizes this as a disturbingly mild statistic, especially given the sour economic news coming out of the U.S. more generally, it does say that this is a significant drop-off in travel.


Well, let’s see. Maybe some recent figures by the airlines can offer a more indicative idea of the pain behind the pinch. According to the Air Transport Association, “airlines are expecting 2.7 million fewer passengers this summer, a drop of about 1.3 percent” (Crouch 2008). Okay, so I guess when we consider the number of people rather than the ineffective-sounding statistic it does seem a little less distressing. 2.7 million less people in the skies this summer means roughly the equivalent, statistically speaking, of every single person in the metropolitan area of Indianapolis, Indiana (and some of the suburbs to boot) not getting on a plane this summer period. Now it seems a little easier to fathom.

I have always had a love-hate relationship with statistics. 1 or 2 percent sounds like nobody at all when considering the American population but if you look at such a percentage in the context of a city and its localized population, the numbers gain strength and clarity. The whole city of Indy…every man, woman and child, says “heck no, we won’t go” to the airlines. Geez.

So, this year might mark the first truly significant dip in travel plans for the summer, particularly if we find some median between conflicting statistics reporting, erroneous or optimistic responses to surveys, and the general act of attrition between consumers faced with a boring summer at home versus an unaffordable but much-needed foray across state lines. We are still paying it, folks. Most of us are still sucking it up and paying the pump. We bitch and moan, we huff and puff, but pretty soon…. Yikes.


(2006). High Fuel Costs Affect Work-Life Balance. T+D, 60(9), 18.

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