) -- The sky may still be falling, but it is at least falling far more slowly than it once was. July employment figures from the Labor Department, released this morning, showed that a "mere" 247,000 Americans lost their jobs in July, compared with 467,000 in June.
The unemployment rate declined by one tenth to 9.4%.
The numbers beat the expectation of analysts, who had been predicting the report to show job losses of about 325,000. The unemployment rate had been expected to rise to at least 9.6% from 9.5% in June.
It is still widely believed that the unemployment rate, which tends to lag a recovery in the economy, will eventually eclipse 10%. Employers typically do not start adding jobs until they are fully confident an economic recovery will last.
Ahead of the report, the mood in the markets had been jittery Friday morning: Oil slipped to near $71, while the
Dow Jones Industrial Average
futures fell 31, or 0.3%, to 9,198.
index futures declined 4.50, or 0.5%, to 990.40, while
100 index futures dropped 2.75, or 0.2%, to 1,598.50.
The market has, of course, been exuberant over the past several months (some would say irrationally so), and the report has been hyped (some would say too much) as a harbinger of the true state of the economic recovery. Market gains have slowed in recent days leading up to the employment report as investors tried to determine how far the economy has bounced back from its bottom.
The slowdown in job cuts comes as companies are likely done with their largest cost-cutting initiatives. Which is not to say there have been no recent layoffs. In July, according to Forbes,
announced the cutting of 8,000 workers;
eliminated 280 jobs;
shed 1,000 workers from plants in Wisconsin, Illinois and Missouri;
laid off 700 workers from its San Jose headquarters;
shed 120 workers nationwide,
cut 2,500 jobs; and
laid off 1,700 workers while
pink-slipped 130 workers in Alabama.
-- Written by Ty Wenger in New York
Discuss the jobs report on Stockpickr.
Copyright 2009 TheStreet.com Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. AP contributed to this report.