The U.S. economy missed out on creating up to a quarter-million jobs this year because it lacked the infrastructure to capitalize on a rare divergence in global oil prices, a National Journal analysis shows.

Simply put, American consumers paid a historically high premium for their gasoline. The economy suffered for it.

The effect appears to be dissipating well before the 2012 election, when slow growth, a limping job market, and persistently high gas prices appear set to weigh heavily on the reelection fortunes of President Obama and congressional incumbents. But the high premium has already inflicted damage on the struggling U.S. recovery from recession.