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NPR Series: Looking Up

  • The spike in consumer sentiment came as companies began stepping up their hiring in January and February. "People pay close attention to the jobless rate," says Carroll Doherty of the Pew Research Center.
  • During the Great Recession, hundreds of parts makers went bankrupt or slashed their payrolls. But now that Detroit automakers have turned the corner and stepped up their orders, many of their suppliers find themselves short-handed.
  • Manufacturers cut millions of jobs during the recession. But since 2010, U.S. manufacturing employment has been ticking back up, with companies adding about 400,000 workers. At least a small portion of that growth came because of the return of factory work from abroad.
  • Thanks to high commodity prices and surging productivity, U.S. farmers earned a net income of nearly $98 billion last year — a record, according to analysts. Economists say two major factors have been driving up demand: exports and ethanol.
  • Thanks to tech companies, Utah generated jobs at a faster rate than any other state in the country — with the single exception of North Dakota. The outdoor life is attracting thousands of workers, but the boom is also being fed by the recruitment of top researchers and venture capital investment — a formula that helped create Silicon Valley.
  • New drilling technologies and rising fuel prices have generated a boom in U.S. oil and gas drilling. It is also creating many high-paying jobs for young people. The average starting salary for petroleum engineering grads is nearly $79,000.
  • Millions of Americans are still searching for jobs or facing home foreclosures. But pockets of strength — found in energy, technology, manufacturing, autos, agriculture and elsewhere — are helping invigorate the broader economy.