4th of July Snapshot: Gas Prices, Economic Indicators Heat Up Like Roman Candles

As we approach the July 4th 2014, the economy news at summer’s midpoint celebration is increasingly rose-colored like one of those ground bloom flower fireworks.

On the one hand, as Bloomberg reports, “jobs growth adds more sunshine” to the U.S. Economy. Specifically, job growth, in payroll specialist ADP’s report ahead of the official Federal figures, was much higher than expected. ““The labor market appears to be firing on all cylinders and is finally self-sustaining,” the Bloomberg said, citing two two PNC Financial Services economists.

The specific numbers, according to a Business Insider overview of the same report, are that “U.S. private companies added a whopping 281,000 jobs in June, which blew away expectations for a 205,000 gain.”

“This comes a day after,” BI continues, “we learned the pace of U.S. auto sales unexpectedly accelerated to 16.9 million to June,” up from a slightly lower figure in May. Most analysts were expecting a drop."

BI quotes one economic observer who notes that  "slack in the labor markets is rapidly receding and the economy is stepping it up a notch. GDP growth may not be what it was hoped to be, but it doesn't matter because businesses are not holding back."

Nor, it seems, are motorists over the holiday weekend. As the Philadelphia Inquirer says about a just-released Auto Club report, “more Americans will travel this Fourth of July for fireworks, barbecues, and the beach visits, despite the highest gasoline prices for Independence Day since 2008.

“(M)ore than eight in 10 travelers celebrating the three-day weekend with a road trip, said AAA, the nation's largest automobile club…Forty-one million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home, a 1.9 percent increase over 2013. The majority, or 34.8 million, plan to drive.”

“Typically, gas prices fall in the weeks leading up to July Fourth, but not this summer, due to high crude-oil costs and the violence in Iraq, said Shane Norton, head of the IHS Global Insight team that put together the AAA travel projections.” The bottom line is that the gas prices aren’t expected to put a dent in travel over the long holiday weekend, “but may cause consumers to cut back on spending for food and shopping.”

Your customers, then, are probably “cautiously optimistic” right now. As the Bloomberg article says, “No one is arguing that all is well. Long-term unemployment remains high and lots of the new jobs pay below-average wages. Productivity growth is weak, and that’s actually one reason for the strong job growth—companies need to hire more people to get the job done.”

So things are tentatively getting better. As you “read” your customer base, be sure to help them along in that tentative optimism,  by making payment methods easier on them, offering loyalty rewards, or –given all the traveling they’ll be doing this weekend — “going mobile” and meeting them wherever they are.

Though you might step back and give them a little room if they're busy lighting ground bloom flowers — or Roman Candles. 

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