Will soaring gas prices put your job at risk? These 7 occupations may feel the heat

  • Gas prices hit $4.17, up $1.40 from a year ago, and it's not just delivery drivers feeling the pain.
  • Realtors, blacksmiths and shrimpers all say they they're beginning to see the impact amid inflation.
  • USA TODAY talked with workers from around the nation to see how they're dealing with the latest blow.

From gardeners to blacksmiths, the shocking rise in gasoline prices raises concern among workers whose livelihoods depend on fuel to serve their customers.

Just as the sudden increase in gas prices has hit unevenly among regions – an average $5.44 a gallon in California vs. $3.73 in Missouri on Tuesday, according to AAA – they have socked some professions harder than others.

Some are obvious. Drivers for ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft who drive their own vehicles and have to pay for their own gas debate whether their gigs are worth it. The same goes for food deliverers.

The trucking industry, already reeling from driver shortages amid the coronavirus pandemic, is especially vulnerable. Many truckers are owner-operators who must buy their own fuel.

Those who drive for a living – as well as workers with long commutes – aren’t the only ones who will feel the most pain from gas prices that averaged a record $4.17 a gallon Tuesday, up $1.40 from a year ago.

Many small or family-owned businesses that depend on reasonable fuel prices to make a profit are caught in the economic crossfire from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine:

Boat operators are getting punished by high fuel costs.

Shrimp boat operators

The number of shrimp boat operators and processors was already dwindling. They took a bashing from Hurricane Ida, and there's fear the fuel price surge could push some off the edge.

“A fisherman has to have more money just to break even on a trip,” said David Veal, executive director of the American Shrimp Processors Association in Biloxi, Mississippi. “The cost goes beyond what a customer is willing to pay for it.”

Some boat owners are late in their careers, having seen their profits dry up over the years from foreign fishing, and they may decide shrimping is no longer worth it in the face of high fuel prices.

“If you think of a Gulf boat that might hold 20,000 gallons of fuel, imagine what it costs to fuel that vessel (at) $4 a gallon not knowing whether you are going to catch a pound” of shrimp, Veal said. Gulf states are  seeing diesel fuel prices upward of $4.50 a gallon, AAA said.

►Pandemic recovery:Economy added 678,000 jobs in February as omicron faded, dining, travel picked up, unemployment fell to 3.8%

Blacksmiths

Darren Greer, a blacksmith or, as he calls himself, a “horseshoer” based in Casper, Wyoming, said he is bearing up under the higher gas prices.

It isn’t easy: He drives about 40,000 miles a year. He tries to consolidate jobs in particular areas, so he doesn’t have to drive as much.

“There’s no way we can’t work because we have rent and food,” Greer said.

There’s a lot of pride that goes into the job.

“I try not to be the reason my customers can't own horses,” he said.

Mobile pet groomers

Toyre Moore of Pet Utopia in Phoenix said he goes through two tanks of gas a week on his truck and a fill-up costs about $100.

Moore said he doesn't want to impose a surcharge, like his competitors. He already had to raise his grooming fee for dogs by $5 in January. He’s doing his best to be efficient.

“I am limiting my areas, making my routes shorter, and if they cancel for any reason, I can’t take them,” he said.

Limousine operators

When it comes to higher gas prices, John Rodriguez said, “I will just eat the cost,” which  has increased from $8,000 a month to $12,000.

Over a decade, he built Angel Limousines in Anaheim, California, into a 16-vehicle operation, from stretch limos to party buses. He did it, he said, through customer loyalty.

As a result, he said, he is going to do all he can to avoid raising prices.

He’s frustrated, not knowing where fuel prices are headed.

“The biggest challenge is when does it stop?” he said. “When do we hit the ceiling on gas prices? That’s the scary thing. We make enough money to cover the fuel costs now, but we will have to have a fuel surcharge if it stays like this.”

Where is the price of gas headed?  “Will it be $7? $8? I don’t know.”

Fuel concerns could hinder Las Vegas' recovery from the pandemic.

Hotel and casino workers

Las Vegas’ resort industry was just starting to rebound from COVID-19 restrictions and shutdowns. Now comes the war, and the resulting high airfares and gas costs could dissuade visitors.

Fifty-two percent of visitors arrived by car last year, a 280-mile trek across the desert from Los Angeles, the gambling mecca's convention and visitor authority reported. The other 48% came by air. The hotel-casino industry in Nevada employs thousands.

Other casinos around the nation that are often destinations far from city centers could suffer. The industry’s American Gaming Association isn’t sure what the ultimate effect will be.

►'We're going back to normal':Las Vegas visitors shed their masks

Gardeners

Residential and commercial gardeners not only have to drive fuel-thirsty pickups loaded with lawn equipment, they have to fuel their mowers and blowers as well.

Miguel Diaz of Brothers Landscaping in Los Angeles said he’s feeling the effects. Every day, he has to shell out at least $40 on gas.

“It’s expensive,” he said.

Gas prices could influence where homebuyers decide to live.

Real estate brokers

Albert Saenz, who sells homes through his Cadenza Realty in Austin, Texas, has a double concern.

Not only is he affected by higher gas prices – he puts in 20,000 to 25,000 miles on the road a year – but fuel issues might change the patterns of the real estate market. Some buyers may not want to live so far away from a fast-growing city's center.

"When gas becomes an issue, the commuters can't afford going further out," he said. "It is going to affect the buyer pool for those far-out buyers."

He said he may rely more on a service that offers a modest fee to another broker who can show homes far from Saenz's office.

"In our market, we have 'showing services' available, and I have been using them through the pandemic," Saenz said.

►First-time homebuyers:It's tough to buy a starter home these days. Three Americans tell their stories.

Rising gas prices in the U.S.