Consumer confidence is at its highest level in seven months, largely because more Americans expect the jobs picture to improve. But confidence is still at what's considered a weak level.
Home values are increasing. Another report out Tuesday says prices in 20 major cities rose 1.6 percent in July, the fourth-straight increase. But prices are still 30 percent below where they were before the housing bubble burst. Stock portfolios are looking better. The Dow is up 10 percent this year.
Gas prices, though, are also on the rise. Nationwide tonight, they average $3.81 per gallon -- 30 cents higher than a year ago.
There are also signs of an improving jobs picture. The best gift this holiday season may be more jobs.
Toys "R" Us said Tuesday it will take on 45,000 seasonal workers this holiday -- 5,000 more than last year.
Kohl's, the department store chain, is adding more than 52,000 holiday workers, about 10 percent more than last year.
Target's seasonal workforce will be 80,000 to 90,000, down slightly from a year ago.
But Walmart is adding 50,000 jobs, slightly more than last year, and Gamestop will add 17,000.
"It's about the same as last year. Our fall season, we're really expecting a nice surge in business," said Mike Buskey, senior vice president for hiring at Gamestop, adding that the world's largest videogame retailer is bullish on the holiday.
"I think if you have a significant offering, consumers are ready to spend money. I think the iPhone 5 release is a classic example," Buskey said.
Apple has already sold more than 5 million iPhone 5s.
"That doesn't sound like an economy in recession," Buskey said.
Across the country the recovery has been uneven. Nationally the unemployment rate has dropped to 8.1 percent, but in four states -- North Carolina, New Jersey, California and Rhode Island -- the jobless rate is still near 10 percent or above. In Nevada, it's more than 12 percent.
That's why economist Scott Hoyt with Moody's Analytics is forecasting slow growth this holiday.
"It's going to be a modestly disappointing season. Retailers are going to see a growth in sales but not the kind growth they'd like, or even the kind of growth they saw in the last two years," Hoyt said.
It's disappointing but not a disaster, Hoyt said, and two surveys are forecasting that holiday hiring will increase this year, though it will still be well below pre-recession levels.