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Economists See More Reasons for Optimism: NABE

Economists are increasingly confident that key segments of the U.S. economy will improve this year.

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The National Association for Business Economics says forecasters have raised their expectations for employment, new home construction and business spending.

But they held on to their average prediction that America's gross domestic product, or GDP, will grow at a rate of 2.4 percent, with stronger growth happening in the second half of the year.

That's a slight improvement from 2011.

NABE economists see the unemployment rate sticking at 8.3 percent this year, matching January figures. That's improved from their November forecast of 8.9 percent.

In housing, economists predict builders will break ground on 700,000 homes this year, up 15 percent compared with 2011. They predict 850,000 will be built in 2013.

Panelists are also still forecasting strong business spending growth this year.

The survey was conducted Jan. 26 to Feb. 8.