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But he warned that the boost from the stimulus will be only temporary this year because it is financed with unsustainable federal deficits exceeding $1 trillion.

“The higher short-term growth comes at the expense of slower growth in the future,” he said.

Also adding to the more bullish outlook Monday, the Commerce Department reported a 0.4 percent rise in construction spending in November, in what economists said could represent a turning point for the recession-plagued building sector.

Fueling the gain was the first increase in single-family housing starts since April, but economists expect housing construction to stay mostly flat this year and not contribute to economic growth because of a big backlog of foreclosed homes waiting to be sold.

Commercial construction continued to decline, but public spending on infrastructure projects such as roads and schools expanded by 0.7 percent under the influence of President Obama’s first economic stimulus bill.

With the economic acceleration, investors are hopeful that another critical piece of the picture will fall into place soon: faster job growth.

A report last week showed a big drop in first-time claims for unemployment insurance to fewer than 400,000 for the first time in 2½ years. Markets are looking for confirmation of the lower jobless claims in a report out Thursday and a report on the overall job market to be released Friday.

Mr. Kelly said he would not be surprised if unemployment claims rebound some this week. Last week’s report may have been a “fluke,” he said, because it was a holiday week and the figures could have been distorted by the Labor Department’s seasonal adjustments to the data provided by the states.

But there’s no mistaking the firming trend in the economy overall, said Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight.

“The private-sector recovery has gathered more momentum, and will get an extra kick in 2011 from a further injection of fiscal stimulus,” he said.

With improving confidence and spending among businesses and consumers alike, “we seem closer to the long-awaited ‘self-sustaining’ recovery, where employment and consumer spending move up together,” he said.

Mr. Gault recently revised his forecast for 2011 to 3.2 percent from 2.4 percent, although he expects growth to tick down to 2.9 percent again in 2012 as the boost from the stimulus fades.