The U.S. unemployment rate slowed unexpectedly and job losses eased last month in another possible sign that the recession has ended. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that the national unemployment rate for July was 9.4 percent, down 0.1 percent from the previous month, and that the economy lost 247,000 jobs, the smallest drop since August 2008 and considerably below industry analysts' predictions, which ranged between 275,000 and 325,000. In individual sectors, manufacturing lost 52,000 jobs in July for a total of 2 million jobs lost since the recession began in December 2007; construction lost 76,000 jobs; professional and business services lost 38,000; transportation and warehousing lost 22,000; wholesale trade lost 19,000; and financial services lost 13,000. Economists warn that the improved numbers do not necessarily mean companies will begin hiring again anytime soon. "The basic message is that the rate of job cuts is diminishing, and that's good news," says Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at IHS Global Insight, quoted in The New York Times. "Still, you're seeing job cuts everywhere except education, healthcare, government. I don't think we're at bottom yet in unemployment."