Even the sourpusses and Eeyores have lightened up. New York University economist Nouriel Roubini, who was talking about a "near depression" last fall and government takeovers of major banks as recently as April, now says "there is light at the end of the tunnel."
Economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman said in speech last month that "GDP growth in the United States will be positive in the second half of the year," as if he had adjusted the fit of his underwear.
Has the economy turned around? Not if you rely on the employment report due today. Economists expect the country to have lost another half-million jobs in May. They're predicting unemployment will have risen from 8.9 percent to 9.2 percent.
But things look undeniably better, if only because they were so bleak as recently as three months ago. Recent economic readings have been much better than expected.
It's far too early to pronounce a recovery, however, either for the country or for Maryland. And even if recovery comes, there are risks for another recession.
Maybe the most underrated positive development is the decision by private investors to sink billions into the U.S. banking system. The only one dumb enough to do that until a few weeks ago was the government.
Wells Fargo, Fifth Third Bancorp, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley, all recipients of bailout money and subjected to last month's "stress test," have sold stock recently. That means investors are confident they won't need new bailouts or run into severe new difficulty.
JPMorgan Chase and others are planning to issue shares. Banking companies are also raising money by selling off divisions. That, too, was unthinkable a few months ago because frozen credit markets would have prevented financing for the deals. But credit markets are starting to recover.
Even if the new investors turn out to be suckers, the capital they're contributing means they'll bear the risk of a new slump that otherwise would have fallen on taxpayers or bondholders. That in itself reduces chances for a new crisis.
Consumer confidence hit its highest level since September last month, according to the Conference Board, a private research outfit.
Continuing claims for unemployment benefits fell last week for the first time this year, although the decline was only slight. The swine flu scare is history. People are seizing on low interest rates and bedrock prices to buy some of the excess homes on the market. And the stock market has risen nearly 40 percent since March.
Maryland job losses seem to have slowed in April, although because of sampling limitations, the measurements are less reliable than national statistics. Thanks to its strength in health care, defense and education, and its proximity to Washington, Maryland has fared better than most states in any event.
But avoiding the abyss is not the same thing as resuming the climb. The stock market isn't priced for apocalypse anymore; merely disaster. It's still nearly 40 percent down from its peak and lower than it was a decade ago.
The idea that the continuing cascade of house foreclosures won't again overwhelm the financial system is calculated hope, not fact.
The subprime crisis is over, but now borrowers with higher-grade credit ratings are missing their payments as unemployment rises. Credit-card defaults are soaring, and there's no guarantee commercial real estate won't repeat the collapse of the early 1990s, which was terrible for Maryland.
Car companies' plunge into bankruptcy will send new shocks across the economy. Consumers won't return to the prodigal ways of 2007 for a long time. Store-for-store sales across 30 chains tracked by Thomson-Reuters plunged 4.8 percent last month, although the results don't include Wal-Mart, which has been doing well.
Production statistics may look encouraging this summer as wholesalers and retailers refill depleted inventories, but for sustained growth, consumers have to actually buy the stuff.
There are new risks.
The economic "green shoots" policymakers keep talking about were fertilized with mutant Miracle-Gro - probably the biggest package of economic stimulus and bailouts in history. That stimulus will wear off in a few months.
Talk of growth has boosted energy prices, but if oil rises much further it could snuff out the recovery.
And in another side effect, the deep-deficit spending that financed the bailout/stimulus has investors dumping Treasury securities, driving down the dollar and raising interest rates. They're worried about the country's long-term solvency and the world's ability to continue financing Washington.
If that keeps up, nothing would be more certain to prolong the recession and maybe worsen it. Long-term mortgage rates have already popped back up above 5 percent, which will slow the recent cascade of sales and refinancings.
Still, it seems safe at this point to discount last month's pronouncement by Nassim Taleb, another doomsayer and author of The Black Swan, that this economic crisis is "vastly worse" than the one that swamped the world in the 1930s.
If he, too, recants and starts talking about lights and tunnels, maybe recovery really will be at hand.