The travel volume over this Thanksgiving weekend in the U.S. is estimated to reach the highest level in 14 years, buoyed by stable gasoline prices, while retail sales are expected to climb to record highs, according to data compiled by Anadolu Agency on Thursday.
Around 55 million people in the U.S. are anticipated to travel at least 50 miles (80.5 kilometers) or more over this Thanksgiving weekend from Wednesday, Nov. 27 through Sunday, Dec. 1., a joint report by the American Automobile Association (AAA) and London-based research company IHS Markit showed.
If this amount of people travels, it would mark the highest level since 2005, according to the report.
Of these approximately 55 million people, 49.3 million, or 89.6%, are expected to travel by car, while 4.45 million, or 8%, are estimated to travel by plane, and another 1.49 million, or 2.7%, are expected to travel by trains, buses, or cruise ships.
Two storms, however, are set to bring rain and snow to the western half of the U.S. as millions of people are preparing to travel over the weekend. A bomb cyclone is bringing 100-miles-per-hour (160 kilometers per hour) winds and blizzards after it slammed into the Pacific Northwest late Tuesday night.
The storms are forecast to impact the western states of Washington, Oregon, California, and then move eastwards towards Nevada, Colorado and Utah, according to the National Weather Service.
Among the major metropolitan areas on the west coast, San Francisco and Los Angeles in the state of California will be the most congested traffic areas over the holiday weekend, the AAA statement said.
"Thanksgiving weekend travel volume has seen a steady increase during the past few years, and the trend should continue this year thanks to a strong economy and affordable gas prices," it added.
- Gasoline prices unchanged
In the U.S., gasoline prices this year are similar to prices over the last two years, according to the country's Energy Information Administration (EIA).
As of Monday, Nov. 25, regular retail gasoline prices averaged $2.58 per gallon (3.78 liters) in the U.S., a marginal drop from the $2.61 per gallon on the Monday before Thanksgiving in 2018, and very similar to the same period in 2017 when gasoline cost $2.57 per gallon.
The EIA said the estimated 55 million automobile travelers this year would mean 1.6 million, or 2.9%, more travelers than last year's Thanksgiving, marking the 11th consecutive increase in automobile travel over the Thanksgiving holiday.
The administration added that it expects the average number of vehicle miles traveled in the month of November this year to be 1.6% more than in November 2018. And it forecasts that drivers in the U.S. will travel 8.8 billion miles (14.16 billion kilometers) per day in November 2019.
- Retail sales to set record high
As gasoline prices remain unchanged this Thanksgiving weekend, retail sales in the U.S. during the holiday season from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31 are expected to set record highs.
"The U.S. economy is continuing to grow and consumer spending is still the primary engine behind that growth," the National Retail Federation (NRF) President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement on Oct. 3.
The American economy expanded for 125 consecutive months from June 2009 through October 2019 -- the longest monthly growth series on record in U.S. history, according to official data.
With the U.S. Federal Reserve lowering its benchmark interest rate by 25 basis points three times since July 2019, and the unemployment rate falling to 3.5% in September to its lowest level in 50 years, strong consumer demand is anticipated.
"Current economic data and the recent momentum of the economy show that we can expect a much stronger holiday season than last year," NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said in the statement.
The NRF expects total retail sales during the two-month holiday season from November to December this year to increase by between 3.8% and 4.2% from last year's $701.2 billion to reach a record high level of between $727.9 billion and $730.7 billion this year.
Online sales are estimated to rise by 11% to 14% to reach $162.6 billion to $167 billion during this year’s holiday season, compared to $146.5 billion during the same period of 2018, according to the NRF.
Shay said in a separate statement on Oct. 24 that retailers in the U.S. are "expected to import near-record volumes of merchandise ahead of the tariffs that are scheduled to take effect on a wide range of consumer goods from China on Dec. 15."
- 165 million people to shop
Around 165.3 million people in the U.S. are estimated to hit the stores and Internet during the five-day shopping spree from Thanksgiving Day on Nov. 28 through Cyber Monday on Dec. 2, according to a survey released on Nov. 15 by the NRF and Prosper Insights & Analytics.
While 39.6 million consumers are anticipated to shop on Thursday's Thanksgiving Day, 114.6 million people are forecast to do so on Black Friday, Nov. 29, 66.6 million consumers are estimated to shop on Small Business Saturday on Nov. 30, and 33.3 million on Sunday, Dec. 1.
The shopping weekend will end on Cyber Monday, Dec. 2 when 68.7 million people are expected to go online for goods, according to the survey.
To meet high consumer demand, the NRF said it expects retailers to hire between 530,000 and 590,000 temporary workers during this holiday season, up from 554,000 in 2018.
Consumers in the U.S. are estimated to spend $1,047 on average during the holiday season from November to December this year, representing a 4% increase from last year's $1,007, according to NRF figures.
While 56% of consumers in the U.S. are expected to shop online, 53% are anticipated to hit department stores, and 51% are forecast to visit discount stores.
Around 46 million turkeys are consumed on Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. every year.
The average price of a turkey this year comes in at $20.80 for 16 pounds (7.25 kilograms) -- the lowest since 2010 -- according to the U.S.' American Farm Bureau Federation.
The retail sector is the largest private-sector employer in the U.S., supporting one in four jobs by providing employment for 42 million people in the country. It contributed $2.6 trillion in 2018 to the U.S.’ $20.5 trillion annual GDP.
By Ovunc Kutlu