Average prices at the pump in New Jersey have fallen significantly since the peak travel season.

But drivers in the Garden State are still paying more than they normally should be this time of year, according to experts.

"Typically in the autumn we see more of a downward trend, but there's been a lot to interrupt that this year," said Patrick DeHaan, petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.

While the price per gallon of regular gasoline is down about 15 cents from the same time last year, the average cost in New Jersey ($2.58, as of Nov. 4, according to newjerseygasprices.com) is actually about 3 cents higher than a week ago, and a nickel higher than this time last month. Those numbers are going in the opposite direction than one would expect at a time when demand for gasoline is down with less people traveling, and refineries have switched over to a cheaper blend of gasoline.

At least for now, "economic optimism" is taking the place of any price declines, DeHaan said.

"This year we're facing the possibility of a China-U.S. trade deal, and that could completely change the economy," DeHaan said. "It could lead to more oil demand."

Locally, the shutdown of the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery, impacted by a fire in June, is resulting in greater reliance on gasoline that needs to be imported into the region, DeHaan added.

DeHaan said he does expect some relief at the pumps later in the year.

"I think you can count on lower prices," he said. "Maybe not today or tomorrow, but I think that by the end of the year prices should be 10 to 20 cents lower than where we are today," he said.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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