WOODBURY - According to economists, the U.S. economic recovery is gaining strength, with more firms expressing positive hiring plans than in over a decade.

A new survey from the National Association for Business Economics finds that economists are more hopeful about overall economic growth, the job market and demand for companies' products and services by many measures than they have been since the start of the Great Recession.

The group reports 42 percent of U.S. companies say they'll be hiring new employees in the first half of this year. Only 7 percent of all businesses surveyed say they expect to hire fewer workers in 2011.

AP wire services were used in this report.