Summary Box: Layoffs slow, consumers spend more

POSITIVE REPORTS: Companies are laying off fewer workers and businesses and consumers are spending more, according to reports released Thursday that confirm the economy is improving.

CONSUMER, BUSINESS SPENDING UP: Businesses ordered more computers and industrial equipment last month, evidence they are ramping up investment. Consumers, meanwhile, boosted their spending in November for the fifth straight month.

NOT ENOUGH HIRING: Still, declines in the number of people applying for unemployment benefits haven't lowered the unemployment rate. That's because even as layoffs slow, hiring hasn't yet risen fast enough.