The Labor Deparment's monthly employment report for July showed a drop of 247,000 in non-farm payrolls, beating the Wall Street consensus estimate of a loss of 275,000 jobs and shaving a tenth of a percentage point off the unemployment rate of 9.4%.

The report was taken as a sign that the recession may be nearing an end on Wall Street, which reacted with strong gains in stocks at the opening bell.

The average monthly decline in jobs from May through July was 331,000, about half what it was in the period bracketed by November and April, which saw an average monthly decline of 645,000. The number of long-term unemployed workers, however, rose by 584,000 to 14.5 million, and those who are working in part-time jobs because they are unable to find full-time work held steady at 8.8 million. Another 2.3 million were marginally attached to the labor force in July, 709,000 more than a year earlier. When the latter two are added to the total, the unemployment rate jumps to nearly 16.5%.

Employment in the construction industries declined by another 76,000 in July, about in line with the average for the past 3 months (-73,000).Employment had decreased by 117,000 a month on average from November to April. The unemployment rate in construction in July rose to 18.2%, up from 8% last July, with 1.68 million unemployed, up from 783,000.

Manufacturing employment fell by 52,000 in July and has declined by 2 million since the recession began. Retail employment declined by 44,000.Professional and business services continued to trend down in July (-38,000), with 1.5 million jobs since the start of the recession. Financial employment continued to trend down in July (-13,000). Since the start of the recession, the financial industry has lost 501,000 jobs.

Health care employment, as usual, was up, adding 20,000 jobs in July, about in line with the average monthly gain for 2009 but down from an average monthly increase of 30,000 during 2008, the Labor Department said.