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Unemployment hit a 26-year high of 10.2% in October. Topping the 10% benchmark got a lot of attention from the public and the White House, but it wasn't the main story for economists. Instead, they look at the U.S. payrolls number, which is based on a survey of employers about how many people are on staff.

That number has steadily improved since 741,000 lost their jobs in January. But 190,000 more jobs were lost in October. That is still more than the average monthly loss during the 2001 recession.

Many economists are forecasting job growth by early 2010. But if job losses continue deep into next year, that could tip the economy back into recession. If job losses start to increase again, it would be a cause for even greater concern since that could lead to a bigger pullback in retail sales, home prices and auto purchases.

NEXT: Retail sales

Last updated November 16 2009: 12:08 PM ET
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