1. Desserts Are in Again--What's good for the economy is bad for the waistline. When the economy is shrinking, restaurant traffic slows down and people who visit them stick to entrees and skip side orders, appetizers and desserts. But more customers are spending on the sweets again. That's a sign they aren't as worried about losing their jobs.
2. Less Sorrowful Searching--The number of Internet searches for "unemployment benefits," "Social Security," and "unemployment office" spiked last July but have been falling since. First-time claims for unemployment insurance have also been declining for months, meaning that mass layoffs are starting to go away.
3. The Venti Latte Makes a Comeback--One of the first things people cut out of their budgets when they're hurting for cash is the coffee they get at their local coffee shop. It's also one of the first little luxuries that people find worth spending on when they start to feel more comfortable with the economy. Starbucks' revenues went up 9.5% in 2010 after falling 6% in 2009.
3. Box Rebound Reflects Rising Demand--Almost everything people buy at one point or another was packed in a cardboard box for shipping. Bulk shipping costs hit a 22-year low in 2008. But it's on the rise again. Orders for appliances, furniture and other products with a life span of more than three years are improving.
4. Fewer Urban Dwellers Are Hoofing It--During recessions, people stop hailing cabs and walk or take public transit instead. But in the last few months, business has started looking up for cabbies. Car sales are up, too.
5. Golfers Are Returning to the Greens--As the economy picks up, golfers are dusting off their clubs and heading back to the courses. There are still fewer rounds being played than before, but the number of visits to golf courses stopped going down last year.
6. Faces, Other Parts Getting a Lift--When money is tight, "elective" cosmetic surgery does bad. But it's starting to pick up once again. The number of patients who went under the knife for a better look went up by more than 13 million last year.
7. More Willing to Play Their Hand--Even gamblers stop spending when the economy is in a slump. In 2009, casino revenues dropped almost 10% from its peak in 2007. The house's take went up slightly last year and will be higher this year.
8. More Couples Are Calling It Quits-Divorce lawyers had a 37% drop in divorce cases in 2008 and 57% last year. But the trend has begun to turn around. Actually, most divorce lawyers are getting more business than they can handle. During the recession, spouses had a hard time trying to get a divorce because they couldn't afford it. But with the economy picking up, the gloves are out once again.