Talk about adding insult to injury: In the same week the unemployment rate rises, the price of gas shoots up 20 cents per gallon.
As of Friday, the price of gas in the Wichita area was $3.53 to $3.55 for a gallon of unleaded regular, up from about $3.35 on Tuesday.
That surprised some who stopped to fill up Friday at the QuikTrip at 61st and I-135 in Park City. They said it would cause them to cut back on their driving.
"It will affect me, quite a bit," said Shawn Paul of Dallas, who was in the area for a company meeting. "It takes a lot of gas to fill up my truck."
"It has already changed how much I drive," said Annette Cline of Wichita.
QuikTrip is just as mystified and unhappy with the sharp price hike as its customers, said company spokesman Mike Thornbrugh.
"We scratch our heads as much as the next person," he said.
The company sells its gasoline at a set markup, Thornbrugh said, so it doesn't make or lose any more money when the prices goes up.
But QT does suffer when the price rises because people buy less of the company's other items, he said. It also drives people to switch from cash to credit cards, which costs the company 6 to 7 cents a gallon.
"It does appear that crude oil and gasoline are not being driven by supply and demand, but by speculators," he said. "Not only are our customers mad about it, so is QT."
International speculators ultimately are behind this week's price rise, agreed James Williams of WTRG Economics, a crude oil and gasoline market analyst.
Williams estimates that drivers are spending 35 to 50 cents per gallon beyond the price dictated by actual supply and demand. The rest is driven by speculators' fear and greed, he said.
Middle East turmoil — and the potential for more — and hopes for accelerating global economic growth is causing speculators to bet that oil supplies will get tighter in the coming months.
What happened this week, Williams said, is that speculators shrugged off the recent attempt by the U.S. and other governments to drive down oil prices by releasing 60 million barrels of government-owned crude onto the market, he said.
Prices did drop, causing many of the speculators to scream, but prices rebounded this week because the amount of oil wasn't enough to scare them long term, he said.
But, Williams said, the gloomy U.S. unemployment report released Friday very well could.
If the market believes the country, and much of the rest of the world, is headed back into recession, the price of oil will drop sharply.
"I think the prices will stay high — as long as the economy is decent," he said.
Those who buy their gas a few gallons at a time remain at the mercy of those who buy millions of gallons of gas, at least in the short term.
Tammy Stout lives in Peabody, but works in Wichita. She has to get to work, so she has to buy the gas to make the trip.
"You can't change the price of gas," she said. "What are you going to do?"