A sense of optimism is returning to the American people. A Harris Interactive poll of 2,566 adults in early January shows.

One quarter, 23%, feel more secure about their financial situation from a year ago, up from 19% last year. While 38% feel less secure, that is down from 42% a year ago. Thirty-seven percent feel the same.

Looking ahead, 27% expect their own household finances to be better in the next six months, up from 22% who thought so in October. Twenty-seven percent expect their finances to be worse, down from 29% who held this negative view in October.

The approach to saving appears to be mixed. Twenty-five percent are saving more than they were in 2008, up from 21% who were saving more a year ago. However, at the same time, 40% are saving less, up from 37% a year ago.

One area where optimism clearly has not returned is the job market. Two-thirds, 65%, say the job market in their region of the country is bad, up from 63% in December. One in five, 22%, say it is neither good nor bad, and only 13% say it is good. The outlook appears to be the best in the East, where 61% say the job market there is bad, and 18% believe it is good. The worst-hit area is the Midwest, where 72% say the job market is bad, and only 9% believe it is good.

Looking ahead, however, Americans are hoping for improvement, as 31% believe the job market in their region will improve in the next six months, up from 25% in December. And only 18% believe it will be worse, down from 22% in December.

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