The long-suffering job market is ending the year better off than it began.
The number of people applying for unemployment benefits each week has dropped by 10 percent since January. The unemployment rate, 8.6 percent in November, is at its lowest level in nearly three years.
Factory output is rising, business owners say they're more optimistic about hiring and consumer confidence has jumped to its highest level since April. Even the beleaguered housing market is looking slightly better.
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"We are ending the year on an up note," says Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors.