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Memorial Day travel to jump over 5 percent: AAA

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The number of Americans who will travel over the Memorial Day weekend this year will jump more than 5 percent, thanks to an improved economy, travel and auto group AAA projected on Thursday.

Approximately 32.1 million travelers will take a trip away from home during the holiday weekend this year, up from 30.5 million last year but not yet back to the level seen in 2007, AAA said.

"While the economy continues to be rocked by waves of occasional uncertainty, improved economic performance from one year ago should cause more Americans to take vacations this Memorial Day holiday weekend," said Glen MacDonell, director of AAA Travel Services.

About 28 million people will drive to their Memorial Day holiday destinations, up about 6 percent from the 26.4 million who drove last year. During this year's holiday, AAA does not expect average gasoline prices to run more than $3 a gallon.

Improving consumer sentiment, increasing household net worth and a rise in U.S. real gross domestic product should all contribute to the rise in travel, AAA said in its report, based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight.

Memorial Day travel has been depressed for two years. Auto travel in 2008 plummeted to its lowest level since 2003 as high gasoline prices and the recession kept Americans off the road. Auto travel recovered only slightly in 2009.

(Reporting by Rebekah Kebede; Editing by John Picinich and David Gregorio)

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