PRODUCTIVITY UP: Worker productivity rose in the July-September quarter by the most in a year and a half, the Labor Department said. At the same time, labor costs fell.
FEWER LAYOFFS: Weekly applications for unemployment benefits dropped to a seasonally adjusted 397,000, the Labor Department said in a separate report. It's only the third time since April that applications have fallen below 400,000.
OUTLOOK: Ideally, those trends could signal stronger growth, followed by more hiring. Yet until consumers consistently spend more, businesses are unlikely to hire enough to drive down unemployment.