Massachusetts is coming off the strongest year for job growth since 2000.  Even in Springfield, which has struggled to recover from the recession, there are signs of better times.

      As 2014 came to a close, the Massachusetts unemployment rate fell to 5.5 percent, down from 5.8 percent in November and 7.1 percent a year ago.  The state’s unemployment rate is now the lowest since the summer of 2008 before the Great Recession hit.

There is great uncertainty about the impact the federal budget cuts, through the process known as sequestration, will have on the Massachusetts economy.   But regional economists remain cautiously optimistic, according to an analysis released this week.