Nightly News | February 14, 2012
>>> good evening. is with americans right now looking for any positive uptick in the economy, any reason to feel good about hiring or wages or industrial production , there's still one thing that could crush it all and ruin any hope for a real recovery right now, and that's the price of gas . too much of our economy runs on it, too many families depend on it, and very few people can afford to pay even more for it right now. the problem is gas prices are going up according to aaa, the national average for regular unleaded is up 13 cents in just the last month, averaging $3.51 a gal rlon across the country. and that's continuing the climb from last month, when we saw the highest gas prices on record for the month of january. nbc's john yang starts us off tonight on why and what more we can expect.
>> reporter: from here in chicago --
>> everything is going up. except the paychecks.
>> -- to charlotte, north carolina --
>> it trickles down. you have less money for you got less money for everything else.
>> -- to los angeles .
>> it might be time to invest in a bicycle.
>> -- americans are feeling a big pain in the pump that's spreading to the rest of their lives.
>> i can't spend my money like i want to. i've got to really budget it.
>> and it's not just family finances being squeezed. analysts say every 50 cent increase in gas prices takes almost $150 billion out of the rest of the economy. that's bad news during a struggling recovery. it's changed the way that that frank's famous frank's famous kitchen and bakery in glendale, california, does business. they're more careful about how they use the delivery truck.
>> you can't deliver two sandwiches five miles away . it doesn't sound like a lot, but it adds up quick.
>> reporter: that's because los angeles gas prices , already among the highest in the nation, jumped 15 cents in just the last month.
>> at those prices, we're dumping $120 in the tank every three to four days. why the price spike? according to experts, it's a combination of rising tensions in the middle east , big east coast refineries shutting down, and increased demand for gas in china and india.
>> we're right on the threshold of high gas price volatility and we'll see it spike sooner rather than later.
>> reporter: the price tracking website gasbuddy.com predicts a national average of $3.95 a gallon by memorial day . even higher in big cities . in atlanta, $4.60. $4.70 in los angeles , and in chicago , $4.95, the highest in the continental united states , which would mean that sticker shock at the pump --
>> 11 gallons, $44.
>> reporter: -- may only get worse. john yang , nbc news, chicago .