It may turn out to be a glass-half-full kind of year after all.

On Monday, Vanguard released a new research paper —“2011 U.S. economic outlook: Cautious Optimism”—by economist Joseph H. Davis and his Investment Strategy Group, which points to a stronger-than-expected economic recovery in the second half of 2011. Davis and his team are cautiously optimistic after data from the Vanguard Economic Momentum Index (VEMI), which tracks more than 70 individual components of the U.S. economy, found that for the first time in five years all signs point to better-than-expected job growth.

“While we appreciate the secular headwinds facing the U.S. economy, our analysis of the leading indicators suggests that domestic employment growth will likely soon improve to a level that should eventually place downward pressure on the near-10% U.S. unemployment rate,” the report said.

According to the Philadelphia Federal Reserve’s Survey of Professional Forecasters, the consensus forecast expects real GDP growth from 2.5%–3.0% over the next four quarters. Similarly, job growth is expected to rise modestly throughout 2011, an average increase of roughly 140,000 nonfarm jobs per month. But 140,000 jobs per month won’t make a dent in the unemployment rate. There will need to be significant job growth – up to an additional 250,000 jobs per month- to return to pre-recession levels of employment by 2013, according to the report. At a rate of 200,000 jobs per month the U.S. will reach pre-recession employment levels by 2014, while 150,000 jobs per month will mean it will take until 2015 to reach pre-recession levels. While the U.S. labor market will add more jobs in the near term, “Vanguard appreciates that the serious headwinds of high debt levels, housing foreclosures, and a higher structural unemployment rate will likely continue to weigh on the economic recovery and contribute to spikes in market volatility at times in the coming quarters.”