Three in ten Americans expect the economy to improve in the coming year, according to The Harris Poll which surveyed 3,171 adults online between Feb. 14 and 21, 2011.

Looking ahead, one-third of Americans (34 percent) say they expect the economy to improve in the coming year, while 25 percent expect it to get worse and 42 percent say they expect it to stay the same.

In December, just 29 percent said they expected the economy to improve in the coming year, while 45 percent thought it would stay the same and 26 percent said it would get worse.

The one lagging indicator during the economic recovery has been jobs. And it is also lagging in the minds of Americans, but there are indications people are more optimistic, albeit slightly more.

Currently, 61 percent rate the current job market in their region of the nation as bad,  24 percent rate it as neither good nor bad and 15 percent say it is good.

While these numbers may not seem all that strong, they are the highest since July of 2008 when half of Americans (51 percent) said the job market was bad, while 30 percent said it was good.

Looking ahead, half of Americans (51 percent) say the job market in their region of the nation will be the same in the next six months while 31 percent say it will be better and 18 percent say it will be worse. This is virtually unchanged since January.

Perceptions on the economy always lag behind reality, especially when the reality is presented by economists. People wait until they feel more secure about their job, or the prospect of finding a new one, before they say the job market is solid again.

A similar feeling holds for the overall economy - once people aren't thinking twice about spending money or dipping into savings, then there is a sense that the economy has improved. The American economy doesn't seem to be quite there yet, but there are very small encouraging signs it is headed that way.