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Highest unemployment rate in 26 years: Obama’s jobs challenge

The unemployment rate hit 10.2 percent in October. The news underscored that job creation is the big political imperative for Obama and Congress as 2010 elections loom on the horizon.

Unemployment rate woes: President Barack Obama makes remarks about the rising unemployment rate Friday at the White House's Rose Garden.

Jim Young/Reuters

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America's unemployment rate crossed the 10 percent mark Friday, as the economy continued to shed jobs despite recent signs of improvement.

The news underscored that job creation is the big political imperative for President Obama and Congress as 2010 elections loom on the horizon.

The jobless rate jumped to 10.2 percent in October, up from 9.8 percent a month before, the Labor Department reported. The economy lost 190,000 jobs last month, the report also said. The job losses were broad-based, spanning from retail to construction, from manufacturing to entertainment.

"I won't rest until America prospers once again," Mr. Obama said at a podium in the White House Rose Garden.

The economic news came as the president signed a bill to extend unemployment benefits for jobless Americans and also to expand a tax credit for home buyers. The White House, he said, is considering additional job-creation programs, beyond the $787 billion stimulus that's already under way. Among the possibilities: more direct federal spending for things like road building, tax breaks for businesses, and measures to make it easier for small employers to get loans.

Economists see signs that the economy and job market are beginning to turn toward recovery. But such turns often take many months, and the worry in the current cycle is that the strains of the credit crisis will make a jobs rebound harder than usual.

According to top White House economist Christina Romer, the jump in unemployment partly reflects a "typical lag" between when economic growth resumes – as it did in the third quarter – and when firms start hiring again. But she added, "Having the unemployment rate reach double digits is a stark reminder of how much work remains to be done before American families see the job gains and reduced unemployment that they need and deserve.”

The labor report blended ongoing challenges with some signs of progress. Among the more-positive trends:

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