Fewer U.S. workers got laid off last week and American consumers spent more money in April.
Thursday's report from the Labor Department shows 12,000 fewer workers signed up for unemployment compensation last week, cutting the nationwide total to 334,000. Initial claims for unemployment aid are a key measure of layoffs and the health of the job market, and declining numbers show an improving situation.
A separate study from the Commerce Department said retail sales rose six-tenths of a percent in May from the previous month. Since consumer demand drives about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity, an increase in retail sales signals increasing economic activity.
The increase included growing auto sales, which have been helped by the U.S. central bank's efforts to keep interest rates low.