Few economists expect a full recovery any time soon. After the economy fell into the worst recession since the Great Depression, the healing process has been slow and painful. But the economy is getting better, the data show. "Lately, the news has been mostly positive," wrote economists Patrick Newport and Nigel Gault of IHS Global Insight. The past week's economic data releases were particularly encouraging. The 162,000 increase in nonfarm payrolls was the best in three years, and it was positive even excluding the temporary census hiring and weather effects. The manufacturing sentiment index from Institute for Supply Management hit a six-year high. Consumer spending has increased at healthy, if modest, pace for five months in a row, while auto sales moved higher without any help from Washington. The skunk at the party is real estate, with the economy still struggling to digest the abundant supply of houses, condos, malls and offices built during the credit binge.