Motorists have probably noticed in the last week or so that the break at the gas pump they were enjoying has begun to disappear.
Gasoline prices, which dipped nationwide to an average price of $3.39 a gallon, are climbing again. The average price is now over $3.45 a gallon, up about six cents in the last week.
What happened? The financial markets have decided in recent days that maybe we aren't headed for another recession after all. As a result, crude oil prices, which dipped below $75 a barrel two weeks ago, are now back up over $87.
Prices fell because, if there was going to be a recession, the future demand for oil would be significantly less. But now with a recession nearly off the table, traders have concluded that energy demand may be greater that what was perceived just a couple of weeks ago.
What's happened to change people's minds? It started with the September employment report. It wasn't great, but it showed that the economy added 103,000 jobs during the month. If the economy was heading toward recession, it wouldn't be adding jobs.
The latest piece of clarifying news came late last week in the form of stronger than expected retail sales. Yes, consumers were spending again, and not just on necessities. Car sales were up nicely.
Businesses adding jobs and consumers spending money seems to indicate, in the minds of traders, that the economy may still be week, but it's not headed for recession.
Jobs going begging
While the unemployment rate is too high, a number of business executives have complained they have openings they can't fill because they can't find qualified applicants. Some estimates put the total of unfilled jobs as high as three million.
All of this suggests that recent worries about a double dip recession have more to do with economic problems in Europe and less about what's happening in the U.S. economy.
While a stronger-than-expected economy is good news, for consumers it's likely to mean that gasoline prices have stopped their slid toward the $3 a gallon mark and will probably start heading up again.