updated 7/2/2010 3:33:52 PM ET 2010-07-02T19:33:52

The economy may be making people nervous, but drivers should have a happy Fourth of July at the pump.

Gasoline prices have changed very little this week and, by some analyst estimates, may even fall a bit over the long holiday weekend.

The good news for motorists is that even with more people expected on the roads, ample supplies and anemic demand likely will keep prices fairly stable and below $3 a gallon this summer.

"Americans are hitting the road. They may not be spending money on garments. They may not be putting investments into the stock market but they are traveling," Tom Kloza, publisher and chief oil analyst at Oil Price Information Service, said. "It's not going to be a painful summer for the pocketbook in terms of fuel."

The national average for retail gasoline prices fell .04 cent to $2.75 a gallon Friday, according to Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service. That's 12 cents higher than a year ago but well below the $3 a gallon analysts were calling for back in March and April. The price is about one-half cent less than a week ago.

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Motorists paid about the same price as the Memorial Day weekend began in late May. The price is nearly 20 cents below the peak of $2.93 a gallon, which occurred in the second week of May.

The number of Americans taking a trip this weekend is expected to increase 17.1 percent from 2009 levels, when the country was mired in the recession, according to AAA. Nearly 35 million people will travel at least 50 miles from home. Most will drive.

For travelers, the lowest gas prices are expected to be in Texas, Gulf Coast states and parts of the Midwest. Even those headed to the Jersey shore may see prices around the state average of $2.609 a gallon.

The highest prices are in the West, where they range from $2.861 a gallon to $3.495 a gallon.

The biggest impact on oil and gas prices has been the growing uncertainty about the economic recovery. Disappointing economic news has hurt consumer confidence in the United States in addition to ongoing fears about Europe's financial crisis and slowing growth in China.

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Oil prices fell 9.7 percent from the first quarter to the end of the second quarter in June and fell Friday for a sixth consecutive trading session on more discouraging economic news.

The Labor Department said businesses added a net total of 83,000 workers, which was more than May but still less than hiring in March and April. It was another indication of the slowing economic recovery.

Benchmark crude for August delivery lost 81 cents to settle at $72.14 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In other Nymex trading in August contracts, gasoline futures lost 1.99 cents to settle at $1.9777 a gallon, heating oil fell 2.3 cents to settle at $1.9155 a gallon and natural gas dropped 16.7 cents to settle at $4.687 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent crude dropped 74 cents to $71.60 a barrel on the ICE futures exchange.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Hitting the road this holiday? Expect delays

  1. Transcript of: Hitting the road this holiday? Expect delays

    MEREDITH VIEIRA, co-host: There's a lot of traffic on the roads and at the airports this morning, as 35 million Americans set out for their Fourth of July destinations. NBC 's Kevin Tibbles is alone -- along, I'm sorry, one of those crowded highways in Chicago . Kevin , good morning. What is going on on the roads this morning?

    KEVIN TIBBLES reporting: Well, I am alone, sort of, but I've got a lot of company on the I-90 just behind me here as they are off for the Fourth of July weekend, and they got a very early start. You know, 90 percent of that 35 million, Meredith , that you just referred to, are going to be traveling by automobile. In spite of the conversation with Maria that we just heard, a lot of people are sensing a little bit of economic recovery. These people have essentially been hiding under their beds for the last two years of recession, and a lot of them have simply said, you know, to heck with it. `We've got to start enjoying our lives. We're going to go see Grandma for the Fourth of July .' And that's what's -- that's what 's happening, and they've already been hitting the roads here outside Chicago from very early hours this morning, Meredith .

    VIEIRA: Yeah, and they don't seem too concerned that gas prices are actually up.

    TIBBLES: Well, if you just look back a couple of years, you know, it was only two years ago that the price of a gallon of gas was over $4. Now, that's enough to make you leave the car in the garage. This year, as of last year and perhaps because of the recession, they have dropped. They remain stable. They're around 2.73, 2.75. Here in Chicago , which always seems to have the highest gas prices . It's around $2.90. But the bottom line is is that people seem to be starting to travel again, and that has to be good news for the economic recovery. What's the number one location according to Chicago , of course. But, Meredith , if you're going to come, can you give me a shout so I can get some more hot dogs?

    VIEIRA: Well, I never knew you were such a draw, Kevin Tibbles . Thanks so much. It is 7:07. With more, here's Matt.

    MATT LAUER, co-host: And if you show up, he better stock up on the beer as well.

    VIEIRA: Oh, jeez.

    MATT LAUER, co-host: While most people will travel by car, air travel also expected to increase this Fourth of July weekend. NBC 's Tom Costello is in Washington's Reagan National Airport . Tom , good morning to you.

    TOM COSTELLO reporting: Hey, Matt , good morning to you. Yeah, you know, we have a beautiful day in DC today, unheard of for July, what is it, 2nd? We've got low humidity today and 80 degrees, and really good weather across the country, good flying weather. Take a look at the FAA status map. We go to this map to get a sense of what the airports are looking like nationwide. We've got green on the map across the country. That means no significant delays. You heard Kevin talk about the national driving numbers. Driving really is the dominant mode of transportation over the holiday. But take a look at what we are expecting from AAA in terms of air travel . One and a half million people, they say, are going to be traveling by air. That's up more than 8 percent from a year ago. But keep in mind that a year ago we were deep, deep in the great recession and most folks stayed close to home. As for the airfares, travelers are paying right now about 13 percent more than they did a year ago. The lowest average roundtrip fare right now is looking like 192 per ticket, that's the lowest. And once you get to your destination weekend rental care rates are going for about 54 bucks a day. Meanwhile, three-star hotels nationwide, three-star, averaging about $143 a night -- a night. That's up from $137 a year ago. And airlines will tell you that they are still struggling to eke out a profit, so they have fewer planes in the system. That means when you do travel, there are very few seats left if you're unlucky enough to get on one of those last-minute flights. I just booked for next week -- you know, the company wants me to fly to Miami -- and there are like two or three seats left. So the NBC accountant is not going to be happy when they get the bill for this one. Back to you guys.

    VIEIRA: I guess he's not getting the corporate jet, that's apparent.

    MATT LAUER, co-host: I think he was just -- he was just pleading his case on national TV , I think.


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