FORT MILL, S.C. — Job candidates settled into a sunny waiting room at Red Ventures, a booming Internet marketing firm hosting its latest job fair Tuesday, filling out applications and flipping through portfolios.
Some had been out of work more than a year; others were new to the hunt. Many were energized about their prospects - and for the first time in months, some said, the burden of their job search felt lighter.
"I'm encouraged," said David Morgan of Waxhaw, who has been looking for 14 months. "'09 was a little bit slow, but ... I'm cautiously optimistic."
Amid constant reminders of the recession's lingering effects, a new hopefulness has emerged. Job-seekers, though still reeling from widespread cuts and prolonged economic pain, have begun to see more job postings, fewer layoffs, slowly improving numbers. They've cheered small changes, small steps forward.
New figures released Tuesday show the Charlotte area's jobless rate fell slightly in November, the latest positive sign, and experts say the worst might really be over.