May 6, 2011— -- Rising job figures and dropping gas prices should help alleviate some of the economic pain felt by many cash-strapped Americans.
Nationwide, gas prices have already dropped nearly a penny since midnight. In Milton, Fla., regular unleaded gasoline dropped from the $3.80s to $3.55 in a single day.
"I'm feeling really confident in the economy," Chicago resident Carl Sanders told ABC News. "We've been having a big turn around."
Americans have been delivered a triple-whammy of encouraging economic news. Private employers went on an April hiring spree, adding 260,000 jobs, the strongest gain in five years. Gas prices, instead of heading toward $5, are forecast to fall well below $4 by Memorial Day. Food prices have fallen in line with inflation, and clothing prices have declined.
"We're finally hearing good news again, and we've been hearing it consistently since the beginning of the year," Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial, told ABC News. "The green shoots out there appear to be a little more green, and there's more of them."
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, oil prices fell for the second day in a row. Following months of steady price increases, from $75 in May 2010 to more than $113 last week, oil has dropped to $97 a barrel. That is its second biggest drop in history.
If pump prices continue to settle, Seattle resident Cheryl Sanders says she might drive her new car to the mall and spend some more. She was out of work for a year, but is now re-employed and feeling better about buying.
"I'm not worrying as much about the little things," she told ABC News. "If we want to go out to dinner, we do it. If we want to go to a movie, we do it. ... It's nice to not have to worry about every penny that's going out."
In Schaumburg, Ill., near Chicago, a family owned manufacturing company called Quality Float Works Inc. is just one of the companies across the country that's on a hiring binge.
"We've hired two people since the beginning of this year, and we are looking for two positions in our factory that we are looking to fill immediately," Jason Speer, Quality Float Works' owner, told ABC News. "And if things continue, we will be hiring several more people later on this year."
Welcome news for the hundreds of thousands of Americans who are still out of work.