Unemployment dips to 9.4 percent

The nation’s unemployment rate dipped slightly, to 9.4 percent, in July as the economy lost fewer jobs than had been expected.

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The economy lost 247,000 non-farm jobs, and the unemployment rate fell only a tenth of a point from 9.5 percent in June, according to the Labor Department’s monthly report.

Still, forecasters had predicted more than 300,000 jobs would be lost for the month, and the number of job losses in July was far fewer than just a few months ago.

Between November and April, monthly job losses averaged 645,000. Over the last three months, the rate of job loss was cut in half, and averaged 331,000.

Unemployment is seen as a lagging economic indicator, meaning the rate of unemployment often does not slide down until after the economy starts to improve.

In another sign that the rate of job losses may be bottoming out, the number of persons working part time for economic reasons changed little in July, at 8.8 million. These people are sometimes referred to as “involuntary part-time workers,” and their numbers swelled in the fall and winter at the height of the economic downturn.

The number of involuntary part-time workers has been little changed for four consecutive months, according to the Labor Department.