I’ve been following the trend of Americans driving less. Click here for a post from just a month ago. Normally, if there is a decline in driving in a recession, there’s a fairly quick rebound once the economy starts to recover.
Not this time.
Inflation-adjusted gas prices are near their historical highs, but it seems there are other factors at work.
From the Washington Post’s Wonkblog’s Driving, gas prices and the end of retail:
Theories for a structural shift generally involve demographics: America’s swelling ranks of retirees don’t drive as much, while kids these days prefer Facebook to motoring around with friends. But there’s another possible factor: the torrid growth of online shopping. Phil Izzo has the numbers, which are striking. In the fourth quarter of 2011, e-commerce surged to 5.5 percent of all retail sales — and, if anything, that understates the trend, since brick-and-mortar stores include online sales in their own figures. When people order from their computers, of course, they save themselves a trip to the store.
The increase in online commerce seemed inevitable, at some point, but it’s possible that higher gas prices are helping to drive more online shopping.
Here’s the most recent graph from Calculated Risk: