Since the current recession began in December 2007, the economy has lost a net total of 6.7 million jobs. The deepest job cuts in this recession occurred in January 2009 when 741,000 jobs disappeared, the most in any month since 1949. Hope remains that the unemployment rate will not reach the post-World War II high of 10.8% which occurred at the end of 1982, when the country was also suffering through a severe recession.

There was a signal today that there may be cause for hope. Unemployment figures released by the Labor Department showed that employers throttled back on layoffs in July, cutting just 247,000 jobs – the fewest in a year. The unemployment rate itself showed a small but surprising dip to 9.4 percent from 9.5 percent, its first decline in 15 months.

Another figure released today was also encouraging. With companies feeling a bit better about the economy’s prospects and their own, workers’ average work week rose a bit to 33.1 hours. It had fallen in June to 33 hours, the lowest on record dating back to 1964. The figure for hours in an average work week has been steadily declining as more and more people have been “forced” into part-time work as opposed to working a full-time job.

Other recent economic measurements, such as the GDP figure for the 2nd quarter which showed the economy shrank at “only” a 1% rate, were also encouraging. All of these recent signs on the economy are bolstering the sentiment among investors of a broad-based recovery in the US economy later this year and next.