Job losses slow to 247,000; jobless rate dips

Employers cut just 247,000 jobs in July; jobless rate dips, strong signal recession ending

By Jeannine Aversa, AP Economics Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — Employers throttled back on layoffs in July, cutting just 247,000 jobs, the fewest in a year, and the unemployment rate dipped to 9.4 percent, its first decline in 15 months.

It was a better-than-expected showing that offered a strong signal that the recession is finally ending.

The new snapshot, released by the Labor Department on Friday, also offered other encouraging news: workers’ hours nudged up after sinking to a record low in June, and paychecks grew after having fallen or flat lined in some cases.

To be sure, the report still indicates that the jobs market is on shaky ground. But the new figures were better than many analysts were expecting and offered welcomed improvements to a part of the economy that has been clobbered by the recession.

Analysts were forecasting job losses to slow to around 320,000 and the unemployment rate to tick up to 9.6 percent.

“There’s clearly been a turn for the better. The worst is behind us in terms of layoffs. Now we need to see more hiring,” said economist Ken Mayland, president of ClearView Economics.

The dip in the unemployment rate — from June’s 9.5 percent — was the first since April 2008. One of the reasons the rate went down, however, was because hundreds of thousands of people left the labor force. Fewer people, though, did report being unemployed.

All told, there were 14.5 million out of work in July.

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