Crowded malls and traffic jams accompanied the start of the 2017 holiday shopping season across Connecticut Friday, even as economists were predicting the state’s economy might be headed for a recession.

From Milford to Old Saybrook, bargain hunters jammed the highways and secondary roads leading to some of the New Haven area’s largest shopping destinations. David Cadden, a professor emeritus at Quinnipiac University’s School of Business, said retailers, both online and brick-and-mortar, anticipate a very good holiday season.

“It is estimated that online sales on Thanksgiving and Black Friday should be in excess of $5.5 billion dollars,” Black Friday’s online sales are anticipated to rise by nearly 5.5 percent over 2016. Thanksgiving Day online sales should be in excess of $2 billion and that would represent a rise of greater than 6 percent over those sales in 2016.”

Seventy percent of the 164 million people who were expected to shop during the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend were expected to flock to the stores on Friday, according to surveys done for the 2017 holiday season by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.

Roughly three out of every four people who responded to the survey said they expect to spend as much as they did during the 2016 holiday season. Cadden said consumers will spend in excess of $750 during the one month period between Thanksgiving and Christmas, up from $506 during the same period in 2016

Young adults — from 18 to 24 years old — are the most likely to show an increase in spending, said Matthew Shay, the president and chief executive officer of the National Retail Federation.

“As Gen Z and Millennials gets older, their purchasing power increases, and the rise in disposable income is sure to be seen by retailers,” Shay said in a statement. “This group of consumers has spent time carefully researching gifts for friends, family and themselves, and are ready to begin knocking out their shopping lists.”

Some stores fared better than others as retailers of all types jockeyed to get their share of this year’s consumer spending flurry.

“We’re swamped,” said an unidentified Kohl’s associate at the retail chain’s Old Saybook location. The store had eight cash registers open Friday afternoon, but couldn’t reduce the number of shoppers in the central waiting line, which was about 10 shoppers deep.

A little farther south on Interstate 95, the Clinton Crossing Premium outlets appeared to be one of the day’s big winners in terms of the sheer volume of shoppers.

Traffic for Clinton Crossing queued up for about a quarter-mile in breakdown lanes on either side of the highway near the exit ramps. Clinton police were strategically deployed at the end of the exit ramps to keep the traffic flowing onto Killingworth Turnpike and the entrance of the outlet center.

Although some retail outlets in Connecticut were open Thanksgiving evening, others chose to wait until 12:01 a.m. Friday to open their doors to bargain hunters, or even later in the morning.

Many shoppers chose to avoid the early morning onslaught of the crowds that came with the pre-dawn openings, waiting instead for later in the day to make their purchases.

“I got to Westfield Meriden (mall) at 9:30 a.m. and was out by 10:15 a.m.,” said Tom Caneschi, a Meriden resident. “I had no problem parking, but it was getting a little busy as I left. I’m going to do the rest online, Amazon here I come.”

Stan Capp of Wallingford went to the WalMart location on North Colony Road around noon Thursday.

“There was a decent crowd there, but it was not crazy,” Capp said. “Lots of registers open and lots of staff, too.”

The Black Friday shopping frenzy in Connecticut is being played out against a troubled state economy. Connecticut lost 6,600 jobs in October, according to the state Department of Labor, the fourth month in the last five that has seen a drop.

That has Donald Klepper-Smith, chief economist and director of research for New Haven-based DataCore Partners, predicting that Connecticut is teetering on the edge of recession.

“I think right now we’re at a critical period,” Klepper-Smith said. “We’re starting to get clues, some red flags. Our job recovery rate has slipped again and that says we’re flat lining.”

And even with the level of shopping activity on display Friday, there is visual evidence that all is not well in Connecticut’s retail economy.

The Guilford Commons shopping center off of Route 1 still has three vacant storefronts, two years after it opened. Cadden said that is evidence “Connecticut hasn’t reconciled whether we’re over-built in terms of retail.”

“There are significant issues with the state’s economy, but with a rising stock market, people are still convinced we’re doing well.” he said. “There’s always going to be people with money who will spend it as they see fit and that’s why there is growth in high-end retail. The other growth area is low-priced goods, because people with a more tenuous economic existence are always looking for bargains.”

Cadden said sales placed through mobile phones will rise to nearly $1.5 billion, evidence he said of the never-ending pursuit of a bargain.

“Everybody and there brother has smartphone, even people who may not be able to afford a computer,” he said.