NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. gasoline sales for 2021 have exceeded prior-year levels for the first time since last March, when officials first started to widely impose coronavirus lockdowns, according to a report on Tuesday from the Oil Price Information Service by IHS Markit.
However, demand still trails pre-pandemic levels, and the year-on-year increase is a bigger reflection on last year’s demand destruction rather than strong economic recovery this year, the report said.
U.S. oil consumption crashed by 27% in April last year from the year prior, the Energy Information Administration said, as aircraft were grounded and people were forced to remain at home to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Gasoline same-store sales for the week ended March 20 were 10.1% higher than 2020, said the report, which surveyed 25,000 fuel stations nationwide. Sales were still 16% below pre-pandemic levels.
Since the start of 2021, gasoline volumes have mostly ranged between 15% to 18% below prior-year levels, the report said.
“(T)he real measure of recovery will be a return to pre-pandemic levels,” said Brian Norris, executive director of retail fuels for OPIS. “It’s there that progress remains slow and, looking at gasoline, we still have a long way to go.”
(Reporting by Stephanie Kelly; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)