As the weather warms, will more signs such as this pop up? Economists say the latest data on claims for unemployment benefits may signal that better times are ahead. Eric Gay/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Eric Gay/AP

FedEx employees sorted through mounds of packages in December at one of the company's facilities in Miami. Consumer spending helped fuel the economy in the third quarter. Gross domestic product grew at a 3.2 percent annual rate (a figure that adjusts for holiday spending to show the "real" growth). Joe Raedle/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The lines were busy last September at an unemployment insurance phone bank operated by the California Employment Development Department in Sacramento. Rich Pedroncelli/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Rich Pedroncelli/AP