WASHINGTON - (AP) - Hiring picked up slightly in July and theunemployment rate dipped to 9.1 percent, an optimistic sign afterthe worst day on Wall Street in nearly three years.

The Labor Department says employers added 117,000 jobs lastmonth. That's an improvement from the past two months.

The mild gain may ease investors' concerns after the Dow Jonesindustrial average plummeted more than 500 points over concernsthat the U.S. may be entering another recession.

Still, the economy needs twice as many net jobs per month torapidly reduce unemployment. The rate has topped 9 percent in everymonth except two since the recession officially ended in June 2009.

The unemployment rate fell partly because some unemployedworkers stopped looking for work. That means they are no longercounted as unemployed.