The week before Labor Day may be the last chance for summer fun, but with a full schedule of economic data it won't be a vacation for market watchers.

The coming week will feature key reports on employment, economic growth, manufacturing and the health of the consumer.

"The most important thing right now for the market is whether we have turned the corner ... whether we will now focus more on the negative effects of a slowing economy as opposed to looking at the glass as half full whenever bad news is released," says Peter Boockvar, equity strategist at Miller Tabak.

If any of this week's economic numbers surprise to the downside, it could shake investors already worried about the toll that housing weakness has had on the economy, Boockvar notes. Last week showed continued evidence of a troubled real estate market, with reports of lower sales of both

new and

existing homes and a record number of houses on the market.

"For a while, we rallied on every piece of bad economic data because it meant that the

Fed

wouldn't raise rates," Boockvar says. "But with a weakening housing market, we may have hit an inflection point. Bad economic news might now start being bad for stocks, because any weakness in the economy beyond housing will get people worried about earnings."

On the other hand, if the data surprise to the upside, it could mean trouble in the bond market and rising yields, says Michael Darda, chief economist at MKM Partners. The rise and fall of many rates that directly affect consumers are based on the yield of the 10-year Treasury note, including 30-year mortgage rates.

"The housing boom was part and parcel of the inflation liquidity the Fed put into the economy in 2001," says Darda. "The Fed is in a very difficult position. The question is really how much broad economic inflation can be tolerated to limit the fallout of the slowdown in housing."

The data assault begins Tuesday with the August consumer confidence reading. Economists expect the index to fall to 103.7 from 106.5 in July.

Also on tap for Tuesday are the minutes from the Fed's August meeting, which could provide insight into whether the FOMC will continue to pause on rate hikes.

Wednesday's economic announcements include second-quarter preliminary gross domestic product numbers and the accompanying chain deflator. Second-quarter growth is expected to be revised upward to 3% from the estimate of 2.5% at the end of July, while the chain deflator is anticipated to remain at 3.3%.

Personal income and spending data for July will be announced on Thursday. According to Thomson First Call, income is expected to have grown 0.5%, down slightly from 0.6% growth in June. Spending growth, on the other hand, is expected to double to an increase of 0.8% from 0.4% the prior month.

Chicago PMI for August and factory orders for July also will arrive on Thursday.

Friday will most likely see light volume, since it's the last trading day ahead of the long holiday weekend. But the day before Labor Day weekend will see a key report about, of course, labor.

The August employment report Friday is expected to show that nonfarm payrolls rose by 125,000 for the month, up from growth of 113,000 in July. Economists forecast that the unemployment rate will show a drop to 4.7% from 4.8% in July, while hourly earnings will increase 0.3%. The average workweek is expected to remain stuck at 33.9 hours.

"The employment report is the most important release that we'll see next week," says Peter Cardillo, chief market analyst at SW Bach. "But the real fireworks from the report may not take hold until the following week because of the Labor Day holiday."

Also on tap Friday are August auto sales, which are expected to come in at 5.4 million, down from 5.6 million in July. Overall truck sales are expected to decline to 7.3 million from 7.6 million. In focus will be Detroit's Big Three automakers,

GM

(GM) - Get Report

,

Ford

(F) - Get Report

and

DaimlerChrysler

(DCX)

, which will report their U.S. sales for the month.

July construction spending, also on Friday's docket, is expected to be flat, compared with an increase of 0.3% in June, and the ISM index for August is expected to rise to 55 from 54.7 in July.

Earnings Continue

In addition to the economic data deluge, the market will sift through several earnings releases, including some from big household names.

Companies scheduled to report earnings on Monday include

Restoration Hardware

(RSTO)

and

Alloy

(ALOY)

.

Tuesday's lineup features the likes of

Bayer

(BAY)

,

Sanderson Farms

(SAFM) - Get Report

and

Novell

(NOVL)

.

On Wednesday,

JDSU

(JDSU)

is slated to announce results for its fiscal fourth quarter. Analysts expect the maker of fiber-optics components to break even on a per-share basis, reversing a loss of 2 cents last year. Wall Street is targeting $314 million in revenue for the June quarter; JDSU's own guidance called for revenue of $302 million to $322 million.

Thursday's earnings highlights include reports from well-known brand names such as

Del Monte Foods

(DLM)

,

Tiffany

(TIF) - Get Report

,

Heinz

(HNZ)

and

World Wrestling Entertainment

(WWE) - Get Report

.

H&R Block

(HRB) - Get Report

also will report. The tax preparer's shares were hit Friday after the company said it is planning to record a charge of $61.3 million, or 19 cents a share, to prepare for

mortgage-loan losses.

Thursday's lineup also features announcements from tech players

Ciena

(CIEN) - Get Report

,

Stratos Lightwave

(STLW)

and

Wind River Systems

(WIND)

.

No big earnings reports are scheduled for Friday, in advance of summer's swan song.