As the summer travel season kicks off with Memorial Day weekend, the nation’s workers are undoubtedly feeling more confident about taking paid leave. However, increased travel costs could keep many vacationing workers close to home and diminish the positive impact on the economy, warns one workplace authority.

“Job security is the strongest it has been in several years, as corporate job cutting shrinks to pre-recession lows,” said John Challenger, chief executive officer of global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. “But stagnant wages and soaring gasoline prices are likely to limit the amount of money people are willing to spend on vacations.” Challenger statistics on corporate downsizing reveal that planned layoffs are at their lowest level since the late 1990s. Through the first four months of 2011, employers announced a total of 167,239 job cuts or an average of about 41,800 per month. That is down 24 percent from a year ago, when job cuts averaged nearly 55,000 per month.

The decline in layoffs is boosting workers’ confidence about their job stability.  A quarterly survey of workers by Harris Interactive on behalf of Glassdoor.com found that in the first quarter only 17 percent of employees were concerned about being laid off in the next six months. That was down from 26 percent in the first quarter of 2009.

“Workers are starting to regain enough confidence in their employment situation to ask for and actually use vacation time,” Challenger said. “And, companies, realizing that they are asking existing employees to work harder for the same or less money, will likely be more than willing to grant their workers’ requests.”

Improving job stability is already leading to increased travel plans. A survey from AAA shows that 34.9 million Americans will take trips away from home over the upcoming holiday weekend, the highest number since 2007.