U.S. employers are poised to start adding hundreds of thousands of jobs to their payrolls, nearly a year and a half after the United States fell into a severe recession, according to the Obama administration and many economists.
When the nation's jobs report for March is released early Friday morning, the consensus prediction is that about 200,000 jobs were created in the course of the month.
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and other administration officials also projected cautious optimism that job growth may be around the corner.
"We are probably just on the verge now of what we think is going to be a sustained period of job creation, finally," Geithner told CNBC earlier this week.
If such predictions come true, it would signal that economic recovery is finally starting to translate to the one area that needs help the most: the jobs market.
Since the recession started in late 2008, 8.4 million jobs have been lost. The nation's unemployment rate has soared to 9.7 percent. There were nearly 15 million U.S. job-seekers in February who couldn't find work, which skyrockets to 26 million when factoring in discouraged workers such as those forced to work part-time.
But that may all be about to turn around.
One sign that the Obama administration is expecting strong job growth in March is that the president will travel to North Carolina Friday to deliver a speech on the nation's economy. His speech in the Charlotte area will come hours after the jobs report is released.
Obama will take a tour of the manufacturing facilities at Celgard, a Charlotte-based battery component manufacturer, and will discuss the economy to workers there.
"North Carolina is one of the states in the country that has seen fairly big unemployment in terms of their rate is north of 10 percent," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.
Gibbs said the White House chose Celgard in order to highlight "a company that is seeing, as a result of the investments that they've made in creating the jobs of the future, increases that they've made in their hiring rolls."
Celgard recently received a $50 million stimulus grant from the Energy Department to expand its Charlotte production facility and build a second plant that would produce battery components for electric cars.
Despite the optimistic forecasts from some economists, however, don't expect the White House to pop champagne Friday, even if there is positive job growth.
The White House will view the jobs report much like it has the past few months. While it knows there is still a long way to go to make a significant dent in the nation's jobless rate, it also boasts that the economy has come a long way from the days of losing 700,000 jobs a month.
"Unless the jobs report comes back and says that we've created 8.5 million jobs in this last month, the president's going to treat this jobs report the same way he has treated all the rest of them, which is to say that we've got a lot more work to do," White House spokesman Bill Burton said Wednesday.
The White House believes that the improvements stem from policies it enacted to create an environment for the private sector to create jobs, with more policies coming down the road in areas such as credit for small businesses and "green" jobs.
Geithner said earlier this week that "the economy is getting stronger" and there are numerous signs to back up that claim.