Thirty-four percent of the 3,171 adults that The Harris Poll surveyed in February expect the economy to improve in the coming year, 42% expect it to stay the same and 25% think it could get worse.

Those who are hopeful about the economy rose five percentage points from 29% in December. At that time, 45% thought it would remain the same and 26% thought it could get worse.

While Americans continue to have a negative outlook on the job market, they are not quite as pessimistic as they were two months ago; 61% say the job market in their region of the nation is bad, down from 65% in December. Currently, 24% rate it as neutral, and 15% say it is good.

Looking ahead, 51% expect the job market in their region to remain the same, 31% expect some improvement and 18% think it could get worse.

By region, those in the East are the most optimistic, with 24% rating the job market as good. However, only 17% of Southerners, 13% of Midwesterners and 7% of Westerners say it is good.

The Harris Poll said it will take time for people to feel good about the economy, even though it is improving, because “perceptions on the economy always lag behind reality. People wait until they feel more secure about their job, or the prospect of finding a new one, before they say the job market is solid again. A similar feeling holds for the overall economy; once people aren’t thinking twice about spending money or dipping into savings, then there is a sense that the economy has improved.”

The Harris Poll added: “The American economy doesn’t seem to be quite there yet, but there are very small encouraging signs it is headed that way.”

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