Discount retailer Dollar General and its top competitor Family Dollar plan to open more than 900 new stores and create more than nine thousand new jobs this year.

"The pace of new store openings is ramping up," said Janet Wilson, Family Dollar's divisional vice president for corporate human resources. "We have more aggressive goals in 2012 than we have for 2011."

With roughly nine thousand Dollar General stores and seven thousand Family Dollar stores nationwide, these small box retailers are able to negotiate competitive prices on first-run merchandise with major national brands, which they feature alongside their own private labels. But at an average of nine thousand square feet, a fraction of the size of a typical Walmart, dollar stores offer the convenience of a neighborhood shop.

"We go into a lot of small towns that may not have a grocery store, where the nearest big box retailer might be 10, 15 miles away," said Kiley Rawlins, Family Dollar's vice president for investor relations and communications. "For a trip where you're only picking up four or five items, that's a far long way to drive."

A sluggish economy and high unemployment have driven value-conscious consumers to discount retailers.

"The dollar stores continue to do very well and continue to really outperform the rest of retail," said Patrick McKeever, a senior analyst specializing in discount and off-price retailers with the investment firm MKM Partners. "I think the future of the space is continued growth... There are still a lot of markets across the U.S. that don't have dollar stores."

With stores in 44 states, North Carolina-based Family Dollar plans to expand west into California. Tennessee-based Dollar General has announced similar plans.

Job seekers can apply in-store or online. Meanwhile, investors are taking note. The leading general merchandise discount retailers are trading close to their 52-week highs.

Jonathan Serrie joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in April 1999 and currently serves as a correspondent based in the Atlanta bureau.