A dividend is more than just a payout. If a company is actually ratcheting up its distributions, it's a good sign that a company is improving fundamentally. Why else would it be willing to part with more of its desirable greenery? Readers of the Motley Fool Income Investor newsletter can certainly appreciate that kind of thinking.

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

We can start with Paychex (NASDAQ:PAYX). The payroll giant will be printing heavier checks for its shareholders after a 31% spike in its quarterly distribution rate to $0.21 a share. The company has been a consistent producer on the bottom line, and it's only natural for its investors to get in on some of the action.

Another company putting the pedal to the metal was Speedway Motorsports (NYSE:TRK). The auto racetrack operator's annual dividend is growing from $0.32 a share to $0.33 a share this year. The company may have only started producing dividends five years ago, but, true to a sector where speed rules, it has increased the distributions every single year.

Steelcase (NYSE:SCS) was another hiker. Its quarterly dividend is getting a 20% lift to $0.12 a share. The company also tacked on an ambitious share buyback plan to the hike, and this is encouraging above and beyond Steelcase's prospects. If you're not familiar with the company, it's a leading provider of office furniture with nearly $3 billion in annual sales. What does it mean when a corporate furniture supplier is doing well? It usually means that companies are spending again, and that could be a healthy leading indicator of an improving economy. We'll see whether I'm right about that. One thing for sure is that Steelcase investors won't have to return their $0.12 a-share quarterly dividend checks.

Then we have Teekay Shipping (NYSE:TK). The seafaring giant with a fleet of 145 oil tankers announced a 15% hike in its quarterly dividend. The new $0.2375 per-share rate marks the fourth consecutive year in which Teekay has raised its payout.

Fools can appreciate the companies sending more and more money to their investors. The Income Investor newsletter singles out companies that are committed to growing their distributions with market-thumping results.

Want to see what other companies are growing their dividends? Go ahead and give the 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 in this story. He's also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.