Key Economic Gains Point to Brighter Future

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After years of bad news, the economy finally appears to be gaining strength. The unemployment rate fell to 8.9 percent in February according to a report released Friday.

Manufacturing is also growing at its fastest pace in nearly seven years, shoppers are spending more money, and the nation's service sector added 47,000 jobs last month.

With leading indicators showing the economy gaining strength in the months ahead, analysts predict a brighter future for the job market.

"I think we finally have a prescription for a better job market," said Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody's Analytics Inc.

Stocks soared in anticipation of the news. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose more than 190 points on Thursday.

"We're seeing jobs in the health care area, manufacturing, especially in defense manufacturing, in sales, and in retail," said Tony Zeiss, president of Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, N.C.

However, it will take a long period of economic growth to bring the unemployment rate back down to pre-recession levels. Millions of Americans are still looking for work.

At a job fair in Central Peidmont Community College Thursday, the line of job seekers wrapped around the building.

"It's wild, all these people are unemployed, looking for work," said Valdora Chapman, a job seeker. "Wow. That's all I can say."

Another threat to economic growth is rising prices. Global food prices are at their highest levels in 20 years.

Also, gas prices continue to rise amid unrest in oil rich Libya.

"Sustained rises in the prices of oil or other commodities would represent a threat both to economic growth and to overall price stability," said Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

Many analysts believe the oil shock may slow down the recovery for a while -- but won't stop it. For now, unemployed Americans welcome new opportunities to find work.

"I got my heels on today, but I'm going to stand out here until my feet start bleeding," Chapman said.

*Originally broadcast on March 4, 2011.

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