The average household in Atlantic and Cape May counties needs to work 7.8 minutes to afford one gallon of gasoline as Labor Day approaches, according to an analysis by GasBuddy.com.
The analysis compares estimated annual household income regionally with historical gasoline prices on Labor Day weekend to produce the figures. Depending on your time frame, gasoline this Labor Day weekend will be cheaper, or much more expensive, than before.
For example, that same gallon would have required an extra 30 seconds of toil last Labor Day weekend. But South Jersey residents today still would have work two additional minutes to afford a gallon than in 2009, according to the site, which is owned by the Oil Price Information Service.
Regular gas in Atlantic and Cape May counties cost $3.48 per gallon Wednesday, about 18 cents cheaper than a year ago, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report. Compared to 2009, today's gas is about a dollar more expensive.
But for motorists who spent the past decade enduring a barrage of fluctuations that now seem commonplace, pump prices this Labor Day are not expected to affect travel plans.
Margate resident Paul Dulac took off for a vacation to Cape Cod with his family, his SUV and a fill-up at a Northfield gas station on their way out of town on a recent weekday.
"It definitely costs a lot more for a long road trip, especially when you can fly to Boston on Spirit (Airlines) for $50," he said as the pump ticked up a $60 bill. "That's like a Spirit flight."
Dulac said he does not follow gasoline prices as much as he used to, although his daughter, Kate, 14, does so religiously.
Labor Day holiday travel in New Jersey is expected to increase 5 percent this year, as more than 1 million residents are expected to travel from Thursday through Monday, AAA predicted this week. Nationally, holiday travel is expected to increase 4 percent, driven by an improving housing market and consumer spending.
Whatever happens at the pump is not expected to influence travel plans, said Tracy Noble, a spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic.
"People have become accustomed to gas prices over $3.50 a gallon, so that is not going to influence their decision," Noble said.
Gasoline may be more likely to prompt a change in automobile than a change in Labor Day vacation plans, said Meredith Berkowitz, a Cherry Hill, Camden County, resident who vacations in Margate. She filled her Acura SUV with nearly $72 worth of gasoline on a recent weekday.
"I am going no matter what," she said.
Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for GasBuddy, said gasoline remains expensive compared to a generation ago, but it has not risen as much as some feared when average prices reached nearly $4 in 2008.
Currently, oil is facing uncertainty from the political turmoil in Syria, which bumped up crude oil Tuesday, Kloza said.
Historically, the build-up to military conflicts - from the Iraq war in 2003 to operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the 1990s - tends to increase prices, which then fall if military action begins, Kloza said.
"I think gasoline prices will drift lower in the fourth quarter and we'll see the most attractive numbers we've seen in a year. The caveat for that is clearly what happens in the Mideast over the next few days or weeks," he said.
Meanwhile, gasoline in South Jersey eats up more of a family's budget than in North Jersey counties such as Hunterdon, Somerset and Morris, where median incomes are significantly higher.
Affording a gallon in Hunterton County requires only 4.2 minutes of work - the fifth lowest in the country, according to GasBuddy.
Contact Brian Ianieri:
Gas pain index
How much work will it take to afford a gallon of gasoline this Labor Day? Estimates based on annual household income by county and regional gasoline prices.