Investors looking for hints of a bottom to the U.S. recession will be looking out for the latest unemploy­ment numbers coming out at the end of the week.

“It’s the most important economic event of the month,” said John Johns­ton, chief stra­tegist for The Harbour Group at RBC Dominion Securities.

Economists estimate that the U.S. economy shed almost half a million jobs in December alone. And Johnston expects the deep losses to continue into 2009.

“The leading indicators are still showing downward momentum for the next six months in the economy.”

Canadian employment data will also be released on Friday. About 71,000 jobs were lost in this country during November and economists expect a decline of about 22,000 during December.

But Johnston noted that the employment numbers in October, when 9,500 jobs were added, were distorted by the large numbers of people hired temporarily for the most recent federal election campaign.

He points out that Canada, too, is in a recession and “we’re due for some quite soft numbers in Canada reflecting this sharp downturn that is spilling over into Canada.”

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