The U.S. economy is finally accelerating six years after the start of the Great Recession. Housing and stock prices are rising, the unemployment rate keeps falling, and the government's budget deficit is shrinking.
So why does it feel like the recession never really ended?
While there's little sense that the U.S. economy is headed for another downturn, most forecasters expect further improvement in 2014 will be gradual. Unless and until the job market improves substantially, and higher wages drive a convincing pickup in consumer spending and demand, the lingering damage to confidence will likely keep the weakest economic recovery in memory plodding along at a frustratingly slow pace.
"The economy is continuing to make progress, but it also has much farther to travel before conditions can be judged normal," Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told reporters in his final news conference as head of the 100-year-old institution.
As the evidence accumulates that the economy is beginning to heal, though, that progress is convincing enough that Fed policymakers decided to begin easing up on the central banks massive flow of cash.