United we stand when dividends don't fall. Higher payouts from companies are often indicative of entities that are improving. It's why a higher distribution means more than just a little money in your pocket -- though that is certainly welcome, too.

Let's take a closer look at four of the companies that inched their payouts higher this past week.

We'll start with Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT). The world's largest retailer may be a shrewd cost-cutter, but it wouldn't even think of approaching its payout policy the same way. It has increased its dividend ever since it started paying one out in 1974, so why should 2006 be any different?

Yes, that's right, the company that Sam Walton built is at it again. The company will now be paying shareowners $0.1675 per share every quarter, up 11.7% from last year's $0.15-per-share rate. It's just another way for the company to woo value and income investors, since a stagnant share price (despite the perpetual upticks in earnings and payouts) means lower P/E ratios and higher yields, respectively.

Higher dividends? Yeah, we've got that. Office supply superstore chain Staples (NASDAQ:SPLS) raised its annual distribution by 32% to $0.22 a share. The uptick was heftier than the 20% earnings growth that the company posted for all of 2005. Does this mean that growth is accelerating at Staples? Of course not. The retailer is only expecting to grow the bottom line by 15% to 20% in 2006.

What the new 0.9% yield does do, though, is distance the company further from rival Office Depot (NYSE:ODP), which has never declared a cash dividend.

Recreational vehicle specialist Thor Industries (NYSE:THO) popped its payout by 40%, now paying investors $0.07 per share every three months. Why not? Even though the RV market has been a mixed bag for some of its players, Thor has been gobbling up market share and making each sale work harder. Through the first six months of fiscal 2006, Thor's sales and earnings are up 20% and 35%, respectively. Last week the company also posted a 50% spike in backlog orders. In other words, the good times should keep on rolling in the near term for Thor.

Then we have Chubb (NYSE:CB). The insurer's chubbier dividend will go from $0.43 a share to $0.50 a share this month. Don't be offended when it drops down to just $0.25 a share the following quarter. That will be because of the 2-for-1 stock split that the company also announced last week.

Subscribers to our Income Investor newsletter can appreciate the companies sending more and more money to their investors. Analyst Mathew Emmert has often singled out companies that are committed to growing their distributions with market-thumping results.

Want to see what Mathew likes these days? Go ahead and give his newsletter service a shot with a 30-day trial subscription. Who knows? Maybe the next thing that will get hiked will be your interest.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz pays attention to yield signs. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.