So many turkeys on the road: AAA predicts Thanksgiving travel will reach 9-year high

As bad as that is for travelers, it's great news for business, which could see a blockbuster Black Friday

By Matthew Rozsa
Published November 15, 2016 7:30PM (EST)
Traffic jams cause stress and may lead to crime (Getty/Scott Olson)
Traffic jams cause stress and may lead to crime (Getty/Scott Olson)

Bad news for holiday travelers is good news for business.  If the AAA's recent forecast is correct, Thanksgiving week could bring with it a boom in American businesses, one not seen since 2007 -- before the economy cratered during the 2008 economic crisis.

According to AAA research conducted in mid-October, businesses should expect roughly 48.7 million Americans to travel, with an additional 1 million commuting at least 50 miles from their homes (an increase of 1.9 percent from last year's figure).

Within this group, AAA anticipates that 43.5 million Americans will travel using lengthy car trips, an increase of 1.9 percent from last year. AAA also expects that 3.7 million Americans will travel using airlines, an increase of 1.6 percent from last year, whereas bus and train transportation are only expected to grow by less than 1 percent.

The week of Thanksgiving has long been a critically important one for American businesses. During the days leading up to and during the holiday itself, Americans will glut on spending for transportation (by air, mass transit, or their own automobiles) and festive foods. What's more, the day after Thanksgiving -- colloquially known as Black Friday -- is widely regarded as the official start of the holiday shopping season, meaning that economic analysts look at Black Friday shopping numbers for indications about the nation's economic health.

An increase in spending is considered to be a sign of growth; stagnation or reduced spending, on the other hand, is regarded as ominous.

Some companies try to take advantage of the increase in sales by opening their doors on Thanksgiving day itself, a practice that many criticize for forcing low-wage employees to stay on the clock instead of spending time with their families and loved ones. For better or worse, though, this practice has become a holiday tradition, and a major economic bellwether.

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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