Drivers might find a few extra bucks in their pocket these days.
Gas prices are 36 cents lower than they were this time last year and have been dropping all month.
Normally, the good news continues after Labor Day as demand drops and the state eventually switches to a cheaper blend of gasoline. Some analysts worry a potential attack on Syria could interrupt that and push prices upward, but as of Friday, Fresno prices were holding steady.
The average price of gasoline in Fresno was $3.78 a gallon Thursday -- 12 cents cheaper than this time last month. The average price in the Visalia-Tulare-Porterville area was $3.79.
The drop in prices is welcome news to people getting out of town for Labor Day -- and there's a lot of them.
More than 3.9 million Californians will travel 50 miles or more this holiday weekend, according to AAA of Northern California. That's a 6% increase from last year.
Most of those people -- 3.1 million -- will drive to their destination.
Dropping gas prices plays some role in that, but mostly more people are traveling because consumer confidence is up, says AAA spokeswoman Cynthia Harris. That stems more from things like rising house prices and stock market performance.
"People are traveling more," she said. "We're getting back to normal."
When gas prices drop, travel is one of the first areas where people spend a little more, said Jeff Michael, director of the Business Forecasting Center at University of the Pacific in Stockton.
"Some of the biggest impacts are on people's likelihood to travel," he said. "Some people may be more willing to take a trip for Labor Day and go on car trips."
But they won't be going on big spending sprees. Although dropping gas prices puts more money in people's wallets, drivers are so used to volatile gas prices that they're not likely to go buy lots of expensive stuff when prices are low, he said.
Just what happens to gas prices in the coming days depends upon who you talk to you. The fear of crude oil supply problems in the Middle East led to a two-year high of crude oil prices this week. Syria doesn't produce much oil, but analysts fear that if the U.S. attacks Syria in response to its alleged use of chemical weapons, conflict could spill over into other oil-producing nations, affect supply and push prices up.
One GasBuddy.com analyst says that if the conflict in Syria continues, California gas prices "could flirt with $4 a gallon."
Tom Kloza of the Oil Price Information Service says prices might inch up a bit in California, but they won't skyrocket like they did last year at this time to highs in the $4.60 or $4.80 range.
"We're in a chapter right now where fear and headlines are driving crude oil prices," he said.
After climbing earlier this week, the price of crude fell back to $107.65 a barrel Friday on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Many cities around the nation saw gasoline prices inch up a cent or two earlier this week, driven by crude prices. So far, however, California's prices have held steady, even after the president said Syria needed to be held accountable.
That could change, but it's worth noting that California's gasoline is different than the rest of the country's, and that often means prices are different. The state uses a special blend of gas that is cleaner-burning than the rest of the nation's. It is almost all made in California refineries and the amount they have on hand affects prices.
Right now, supplies of gasoline in California are healthy, according to AAA.
Long term, experts are hopeful that the Syria situation will calm down and the traditional lower fall demand will bring prices down further. By the end of October, most gas stations will be selling the state's winter blend of gasoline, which is cheaper.
And even though that's good news, don't expect people to drastically increase their spending, says Michael, the economist.
"The Valley is certainly still experiencing some massive economic problems," he said.
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6431, firstname.lastname@example.org or @BethanyClough on Twitter.