Ugh! Gas hits $2.50

Drivers already feeling the recession's pain suffer as the average price of a gallon rockets more than 50% since the start of the year.

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NEW YORK ( -- The price of gas, rising for the 33rd straight day, has reached $2.50 a gallon, motorist group AAA reported Sunday.

The spike of more than 20% in a month is hitting Americans in their wallets and causing concern among some experts.

The jump in one of consumers' staple purchases comes at a fragile time for the economy. Recently some measures of housing, spending and credit have hinted that the most severe parts of the recession may be easing.

At the same time, gas has jumped in price as the American auto industry is on the verge of a dramatic reshaping amid plummeting vehicle sales.

According to AAA, the national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas has edged up to $2.502, from $2.488 the day before.

Late spring is typically a time of year when people drive more. But rising gas prices could cause people to stay home. That would mean less spending, which could dampen governments efforts to stimulate the economy.

"There's way too much optimism about a driving season lift," said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service.

Kloza said the impact will be especially painful in economic "sore spots" like California, Florida, Arizona and the rural South.

Currently, the highest gas prices are in Hawaii, where prices average $2.789 per gallon, and Alaska, where the average is $2.751.

In the lower 48, the highest prices are in two of the states hardest hit by the recession: California ($2.746) and Michigan ($2.745).

Michigan suffers the highest unemployment rate in the nation -- 12.9%. California is close behind at 11%.

The next most expensive states for filling up are:

  • Illinois, $2.692
  • Washington, $2.677
  • Wisconsin, $2.647
  • New York, $2.634
  • Indiana, $2.618
  • Ohio, $2.618
  • Connecticut, $2.615

The cheapest gas can be found in South Carolina, where the average is $2.309 a gallon.

Despite the recent surge, the average price of a gallon of gas remains well below its all-time peak of $4.114 on July 17, 2008.

But the repercussions of the 2008 gas spike are still being felt.

Last year's gas price spike severely hampered demand for SUVs and trucks, hastening the downward spiral for the Big Three automakers.

Chrysler filed for bankruptcy on April 30 and is awaiting a ruling from a federal judge as to whether it may sell its assets and form a new company. General Motors (GM, Fortune 500) is expected to file for bankruptcy next week and its stock price is trading below $1 a share for the first time since the Great Depression. To top of page

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