You’re out of the woods …

Remember those high-pitched voices singing to Dorothy and her friends as they walk out of the scary old forest and see the yellow-brick road stretching out before them to the city of Oz?

The song they’re singing—“You’re out of the woods”—is called “Optimistic Voices,” as they urge the little group forward with a surge of cheerful goodness.

We could use a few of those optimistic voices. Spring is here—that season of new beginnings and fresh starts—but you’d hardly know it for the pessimism in which we seem to be drenched. Yes, things are still rough for a lot of people. More cuts are ahead in some areas, and we’ve got a long way to go before we’re out of the economic mess.

But some things are looking up.

We might take heart from recent indications that unemployment is at least slowing. The number of new unemployment claims was at a four-year low in the U.S. Bureau of Labor report for February, released earlier this month. What’s more, ongoing unemployment claims were lower than at any time since August 2008.

Even better, the economy outpaced the predictions of the optimists last month, adding almost a quarter-million new jobs—227,000 to be precise. The only reason that the unemployment rate didn’t drop is because we also had more people looking for work.

That’s not a bad thing. It means that people who may have given up on finding new jobs have begun looking for work again. If it’s a trend, it’s a good one, and there’s evidence that it might possibly be a trend—because the United States also added jobs in December and January.

And even though California’s unemployment rate persists at 10.9 percent, there are also some optimistic predictions there; UCLA’s quarterly Anderson Forecast suggests we can expect to see the state’s unemployment rate begin to drop as well. In fact, their most recent forecast predicts continuing job growth. And, while the report’s authors suggest we curb our enthusiasm, a slow recovery is still a recovery.

We know there will be setbacks. We hope they won’t involve a wicked witch putting us all to sleep with poppies or threatening us with a burning broom, but considering the state of politics in both California and the rest of the country, one can never be sure about these things.

So maybe the improvement isn’t enough to sing about—but it’s spring. It’s time to get re-energized and take our places in the struggle for a better, more equitable state and nation—and despite all the work that entails, we can’t help but feel a bit optimistic.