WASHINGTON (January 12, 2015) – David Huether, senior vice president for economics and research at the U.S. Travel Association, reacts to Friday’s Labor Department employment report and the U.S. Department of Commerce export report from earlier in the week:

“Following the largest three month gain in the past two years, job growth in the travel industry took a temporary pause in December, with employment edging down a slight 3,900 for the month.

“Overall, 2014 was a banner year for the travel industry. In September, travel employment topped 8 million for the first time ever and by December, travel employment stood at 8,053,000. Moreover, the 133,600 jobs created by the travel industry during the past 12 months marked the third consecutive year travel employment increased by more than 100,000, an first for the industry in the new millennium.

“While not dropping as significantly as other exports, travel exports edged down to $18.4 billion in November 2014, a slip of $100 million from October but still 1.2 percent higher than in November 2013. Despite the recent pause, travel continues to be a major force in overall export growth for the economy.

“Through the first 11 months of 2014, travel exports accounted for an impressive 12 percent of total export growth for the U.S. economy compared to 2013. And the travel trade surplus, over $6 billion in November, remained solid and consistent with recent months. Without this surplus, the U.S. trade deficit would be 15.5 percent larger than its current level.

“More Americans traveling and more international visitors coming to our shores has been a powerful force for job growth in recent years. Since the Great Recession, the travel industry has created 827,000 new jobs and has outpaced job growth in the rest of the economy by 35 percent.

“This year is predicted to be yet another positive year for the travel industry. With an improving labor market, moderate inflation, and increasing discretionary incomes, in part, from lower gas prices, travel is expected to continue to grow in 2015. The U.S. Travel Association forecasts a 1.6 percent increase in domestic trip volume for 2015 to 2.1 billion trips and a 4.1 percent increase in international travelers to the United States.

“Recent pro-growth policy achievements, such as extending the visa validity period for qualified Chinese travelers as well as the recent reauthorization of Brand USA, will help to unlock more potential revenue streams for American businesses and further bolster the recovery moving forward.”