The White House on Friday welcomed a dip in the nation's unemployment rate but said President Barack Obama still expects it to hit 10 percent this year.
The new numbers show that employers cut 247,000 jobs in July, the smallest reduction of any month this year. The unemployment rate dropped from 9.5 percent to 9.4 percent, although one of the reasons for that change is that hundreds of thousands of people left the labor force.
"The number we're focused on is that we're still losing jobs," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.
The jobs report showed that layoffs are tapering off, however, a better-than-expected showing and another sign that the recession is ending. "It is more evidence that we have pulled back from the edge and away from the brink of a depression," the president's spokesman said.
But the initial White House reaction was mostly guarded.
"None of us loses sight of the fact that last month a quarter million people lost their jobs," Gibbs said. "The long-term unemployment rate is increasing. People are going to begin exhausting their even extended unemployment benefits soon. While the number itself shows that we're losing fewer jobs each month, obviously we've got a lot of work to do."
Obama in June said he expected unemployment to reach 10 percent later this year. Gibbs said Friday that prediction still stands. He compared the economy to a sick patient who was in a life-threatening condition, has stabilized, but will still endure good days and bad days on the way to recovery.
"I think it's going to be quite some time before we start seeing genuine, sustained, positive job growth," the spokesman said.
Obama has urged Americans to be patient and give time for his $787 billion stimulus package of tax cuts and increased government spending to take hold. Gibbs contended Friday that there was no doubt the stimulus plan has contributed to the slowing rate of job losses.