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If you are not sitting down already, you had better grab a chair before taking a look at the latest employment numbers from Canada and the United States. In both cases, the employment picture in November was awful, awful, awful - and global stock markets, hardly buoyant before the numbers were released, tanked.

U.S. stock index futures were down sharply with about an hour before markets open, suggesting that stocks will fall at the start of trading. Futures for the Dow Jones industrial average fell 174 points, to 8228. Futures for the broader S&P 500 fell 19 points, to 828.

In Europe, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 fell 2.4 per cent and Germany's DAX index fell 3.6 per cent in afternoon trading. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 fell 0.1 per cent in overnight trading.

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Statistics Canada reported on Friday morning that Canadian employment plunged by 70,600 workers in November, following a weird gain in employment in October. The November setback was about three times greater than economists had been expecting and is the biggest one-month drop since the dreaded days of 1982 - for now, the recession that today's environment is most often compared to. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate nudged up to 6.3 per cent from 6.2 per cent.

Ontario bore the brunt of the job losses, accounting for 66,000 of the total, or about 93 per cent.

"Negative GDP growth and rising unemployment requires that our central bank brings its overnight rate below core CPI inflation (currently 1.7 per cent) as soon as possible," said Stefane Marion, an economist at National Bank Financial, in a note. "This implies a cut of at least 75 basis points from its current level of 2.25 per cent next Tuesday."

In the United States, the Labor Department reported that employers jettisoned 533,000 workers in November - the biggest one-month employment downturn since 1974 and far worse than expectations of 335,000 job losses. The unemployment rate rose to 6.7 per cent, the highest it has been since 1993.

"This is almost indescribably terrible. In the past six months the U.S. has lost 1.55 million jobs, almost as many as were lost in the whole 2001 recession, which included 9/11 and the two months after," said Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, in a note.

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