LOS ANGELES – The number of people hitting the road for Labor Day weekend is expected to be sharply down from last year, the Automobile Club of Southern California said on Tuesday.

On most roadways, traffic is expected to be lighter this holiday weekend, due to a combination of the sluggish economy and an unusually late Labor Day date, which traditionally lowers the number of people traveling because many schools are back in session, according to the Auto Club.

About 2.94 million Southern Californians are expected to take trips this holiday weekend, down from 3.38 million last year. Of those people, 2.34 million people are expected to drive to their destinations, the Auto Club said.

“There’s no doubt we are seeing the effects of the economy on holiday travel, but significant other factors are also playing a role in the downtown,” said Auto Club spokesman Jeffrey Spring. “Even though airfares are 17 percent cheaper than they were a year ago, local air travel for Labor Day is projected to decline nearly 20 percent compared to last year — and much of that may be due to families who are reluctant to travel long distances after school has already started.”

The top five destinations for Southern California travelers are expected to be Las Vegas, San Diego, San Francisco, the Central Coast and Yosemite, according to the Auto Club.

Nationwide, the number of travelers will drop 13.3 percent compared with the Labor Day last year, according to the club.

Last year, 45.1 million Americans traveled during Labor Day, the club said.