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The nation's purchasing managers today reported that their index of the economy fell for the fifth straight month to 41.3 percent in November -- the lowest level in eight years -- as the number of new orders plummeted.

The National Association of Purchasing Management's index stood at 43.4 percent in October.

A reading below 50 percent indicates the manufacturing sector of the economy generally is declining, while one above 50 percent suggests it generally is expanding. A reading below 44 percent indicates that the economy's overall growth is negative.

The new orders index, at 39.4 percent, was the lowest since May 1982, during the previous recession, the association said.

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