PHOENIX — Economists believe that American consumers as a whole pocket a billion dollars every time the price for a gallon of gas drops by a penny. Given that retail gas prices have dropped by $2.44 per gallon since July, there should be a lot of money flowing back into the economy.

But these are not normal times. Two million jobs have been lost since last December and as consumers fearful of more job cuts tuck what money they have under the mattress, so to does big American business.

OPEC, by the start of 2009, said this week it will remove a total of 4.2 million barrels of oil from the market each day, but no one seems to care. Crude prices tumbled Thursday to levels last seen in June 2004.

“There isn’t any money anymore,” economist Philip Verleger said. The drop in the price of crude simply gives everyone “a modest offset to this horrible, horrible recession.”

The nation’s biggest industries, from airlines to retailers, have not been able to convince consumers to part with money they are not putting into the tank.

Airlines that were hammered as crude neared a record $150 per barrel over the summer have been able to cut fuel charges, but travel still has dropped by 9 percent compared with last year, according to the Air Transport Association.

There is no offer from airlines to drop baggage fees that went into effect as fuel prices soared. Carriers need to hold on to all the cash they can.