By Stephanie Kelly
NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. gasoline consumption fell during the Thanksgiving holiday week to the lowest in more than 20 years, said OPIS, an IHS Markit company, as coronavirus cases surged and government officials urged residents to stay home.
Since March, the coronavirus pandemic has crushed fuel demand in the United States because of lockdown orders to stay indoors to curb the spread of the virus.
During the week of the Thanksgiving holiday on Nov. 26, gasoline sales fell 8.4%, or about 185 million gallons, from the previous week, bringing demand for the fuel to its lowest level for the holiday week since 1997, OPIS said. The company warned that demand could still get worse by year-end.
U.S. leaders have urgently called on Americans to wear masks and threatened even more drastic stay-at-home orders after deaths from the coronavirus set a single-day record last week.
Demand for motor fuel was down 19.3% compared to 2019, OPIS said.
“We’re heading toward a 90-day period where gasoline demand gets further crimped by winter weather and post-holiday cocooning,” said Tom Kloza, executive director, IHS Markit and a veteran analyst of North American fuel trends. “By January, we may regularly see demand numbers not witnessed since the last century.”
Some U.S. regions saw gasoline sales decline by 20% or more during Thanksgiving week from the previous year, OPIS said.
Midwest gasoline sales were down 23.3% from last year, while New Jersey was the hardest hit state, with gasoline volumes falling almost 30% from 2019, OPIS said.
(Reporting by Stephanie Kelly; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)