Economists say job growth plays a big role in how consumers are feeling about the U.S. economy. Robert Galbraith/Reuters/Landov hide caption

itoggle caption Robert Galbraith/Reuters/Landov

Workers build cars on the assembly line at the Ford Motor Co.'s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Mich., in December. As auto sales boom, parts suppliers are having a tough time finding the labor they need to catch up, having lost workers during the recession. Bill Pugliano/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

AGCO employees work on the assembly line in the company's newly expanded Jackson, Minn., manufacturing plant. The expansion brought the facility's staff from 850 to 1,050 workers and allows the plant to make tractors that were previously made in France. Jackson Forderer for Minnesota Public Radio hide caption

itoggle caption Jackson Forderer for Minnesota Public Radio

An Illinois farmer checks the blades on his combine while harvesting corn last October. The value of the 2011 U.S. corn crop was more than $76 billion. Seth Perlman/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Seth Perlman/AP

Josh James co-founded the Web analytics site Omniture in 1996, then sold it to Adobe for $1.8 billion in 2009. Domo is James' latest startup. Derek Smith hide caption

itoggle caption Derek Smith

Oil workers on a drilling rig owned by Chesapeake Energy in Ohio. Students are flocking to the energy field. Gus Chan/The Plain Dealer/Landov hide caption

itoggle caption Gus Chan/The Plain Dealer/Landov

While parts of the U.S. economy struggle, other sectors are seeing growth. Here, job seekers talk with recruiters at a career fair in Manhattan last month. Spencer Platt/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Spencer Platt/Getty Images