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December 2018: ECONOMIC OVERVIEW

Despite strong showings for the second and third quarters, economic data for the fourth quarter resulted in a mixed picture:

CURRENT STATE OF THE ECONOMY

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Consumer Confidence

Consumer confidence slipped in November as job and wage prospects dimmed, but still remained near historically strong levels. The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index® now stands at 135.7, down from 137.9 in October.

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State of Business

Business investment slowed down in October, according to the Commerce Department’s durable goods report. While the headline number noted a 4.4 percent decrease from September, core capital goods orders only increased 0.1 percent.

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Consumer Spending

Consumer spending started the fourth quarter with a roar. Personal consumption expenditures (PCE) increased 0.6 percent month-on-month (m/m) in October after two consecutive months of slowdowns, according to the Commerce Department.

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Travel Trends Index

Travel to and within the U.S. grew 3.2 percent year-over-year in October, according to the U.S. Travel Association’s latest Travel Trends Index (TTI)—marking the industry’s 106th straight month of overall expansion.

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Labor

The U.S. economy added 155,000 jobsin November, missing expectations for more robust growth, and the unemployment rate stayed at a 49-year low of 3.7 percent. Hiring has remained strong overall as 2018 wraps up.

TRAVEL INDUSTRY UPDATES

Travel in 2019 is already being booked—particularly by Baby Boomers. Business trips extended for leisure purposes are on the rise. Lodging industry metrics continue to break records and 2019 forecasts have been revised upwards. Record-breaking hotel revenues are being somewhat offset by strong demand and increased supply. Wages in particular have dragged down overall profits and increased hotel expenses in a tight labor market.

Domestic Travel

Americans are booking trips for 2019 earlier than in years past, according to a recent survey from AARP. Baby Boomers expect to take four to five leisure trips next year, and of those planning to take domestic trips, 88 percent have already selected a destination.

International Travel

More than 81.3 million international visitors are expected to visit the U.S. in 2018, according to recently released forecasts from the Commerce Department’s National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO).

Lodging Industry

Hotel demand rebounded in October, according to STR. Bouncing back from a slow September, October RevPAR increased 3.5 percent.

Transportation

At $2.42 per gallon, the weekly average national gas price fell to its lowest mark of 2018 in mid-December, according to AAA.

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Member Webinar Series

The travel industry remains strong and poised for growth in 2019. On Tuesday, January 22 from 2:00-2:45 p.m., join U.S. Travel President and CEO Roger Dow and Senior Vice President of Research David Huether for a look back on 2018 and a look ahead at opportunities in 2019 in a webinar on the State of the Travel Industry.

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U.S. Travel Updates

U.S. Travel research released our semi-annual forecast report, which provides added context and analysis to the forecast table.The forecast report encompasses a review of travel industry performance over the past several years, as well as an outlook through 2022.

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