A Brighter Outlook, But Not On Jobs

Follow the optimism index each week to guage the outlook for economic growth, jobs, real estate, and the stock market.

The Optimism Meter clocked in at 55 on Mar. 9, up from 53 a week earlier. Despite the overall increase, Americans remain decidedly bearish on U.S. employment: 46% describe the prospect of finding a new job as “very hard.”

Each of the charts that follow measures one of the four different components of the Optimism Meter: economic growth, jobs, equity markets, and real estate. Like the Optimism Meter, the components appear on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 representing the highest level of optimism. ECONOMIC GROWTH: THE GOOD NEWS—AND THE BAD

HIGHLIGHT: Bloomberg’s survey of 57 economists estimates that U.S. gross domestic product will expand by 3% a year in both 2010 and 2011. Thirty-seven percent of respondents think the economy will get worse, and only 23% see improvement ahead. JOBS: RECOVERY WILL TAKE A WHILE

HIGHLIGHT: Forty-six percent of individuals say that if they lost their job, it would be very hard to find a new one that paid as much. That’s down from 48% one week earlier. Economists predict that unemployment will average 9.1% in 2011, down from an average 9.8% in 2010. EQUITY MARKETS: WILL THE RALLY CONTINUE?

HIGHLIGHT: The volatility of the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index continued its year-to-date decline. Just 17% of individuals expect the stock market to fall over the next 12 months. REAL ESTATE: SLOW BUT STEADY IMPROVEMENT

HIGHLIGHT: Sixty-two percent of YouGov survey respondents said that they believed their homes wouldn’t lose value over the next year. Twenty-seven percent think real estate has yet to hit a bottom.

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