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Economist: Mississippians get most 'mileage' out of low pump prices

gas-pump-regulations-for-people-with-disabilitiesBy Jack Weatherly

Tumbling prices at the gas pump are good news for all consumers in the country, but especially so with Mississippians.

At 6 percent of disposable income in Mississippi, gasoline constitutes the largest part of household budgets anywhere in the United States, according to state economist Darrin Webb.

That’s because of Mississippi’s relatively low incomes, Webb said.

And, Webb said, savings at the pump translate to sales elsewhere.

“Consumer spending is more of a driver [of the economy] than it has been for a very long time,” Webb said in an interview.

“The drop in gasoline prices for consumers effectively acts as a temporary tax cut,” states the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning’s “Mississippi’s Business” December edition. The publication is produced by the IHL’s University Research Center, of which Webb is director.

Miskelly Furniture has seen an uptick in customers coming from farther out in the state to the company’s six central Mississippi stores, according to Betsy Tabor, marketing manager.

“We have noticed more traffic from outlying markets,” Tabor said, adding that zip codes on sales tickets reflect that. Miskelly sales in the fourth quarter were 11.2 percent higher in the year-earlier period, Tabor said.

Kathy Waterbury, communications director for the state Department of Revenue, noted that

sales tax collections through November in the current fiscal year, which started July 1, have increased 6.28 percent over the corresponding period in the previous year.

Waterbury said the agency could not provide year-over-year comparisons by industry because it is in the midst of converting to a broader, more widely accepted classification system but has not completed the transition.

The average price of regular in Mississippi dropped to $1.95 a gallon on Tuesday, compared with $3.38 in July, according to AAA.

Pump prices reflect the fact that crude oil prices have dropped by more than 50 percent since last summer.

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