DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – February was the third straight month of strong job gains across the country.

The unemployment rate for the state of Texas dropped from 7.4 percent in December to 7.3 percent in January.

Texas is fairing better than the nation’s jobless average of 8.3%.

And economists say there are several signs that the job market is improving in North Texas and job seekers say they are noticing.

Judy Lee is on the hunt for a new career. She attended a job fair Wednesday in Dallas.

“My job is to look for a job,” said Lee.

Lee hasn’t worked in nearly a year. She even went back to school and earned her Master’s in Social Work.

Lee says being unemployed is stressful and tiring–but lately she says she’s noticed a change-there are more job openings.

“I’m very excited about more jobs opening up. That’s something that really excites me.”

Year to year 70-thousand jobs have been added in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Economist Bernard Weinstein of Southern Methodist University says that year to year growth is ahead of

“Nationally, the increase was only half that,” said Bernard Weinstein. “So we’re adding jobs at twice the pace that the nation is adding jobs.”

The strongest area of job growth in North Texas is in the bar and restaurant sector.

Wienstein says as people spend more money on food and entertainment it is a reflection that consumer confidence is up.

“The retail sales number for February were up 1.1 percent. That was the biggest increase we’ve seen in 3 years,” explained the SMU professor.

And its not just hourly jobs that are growing in north texas, higher-end paying jobs are also opening up.

Ed Jackson is in marketing for Plano-based Click 4 Corp. He attended the Dallas job fair looking to hire five candidates right away.

“We’re looking for good folks,” said Jackson. “The fact that there’s a big demand for our services, we have growth opportunities which means more job opportunities.”

And for Judy Lee, that’s all she’s been waiting for these past twelve months, more opportunities.

“Believe me there is hope,” said Lee.