NEW YORK (Reuters) -Stock index futures rose slightly on Friday after the government said nonfarm payrolls increased by 162,000 in March, pointing to potential gains when stock trading resumes next week.
Futures gained in an abbreviated session, as the cash market is closed for the Good Friday holiday.
Payrolls were up in March for only the third time since the recession hit in late 2007, and the unemployment rate was steady at 9.7 percent for the third straight month, the U.S. Labor Department said. The consensus among analysts polled by Reuters was for an increase of 190,000 jobs.
"Overall, we should be pleased by this figure and can expect equities to continue their ascent -- at least in the short-term," said Todd Schoenberger, managing director at Landcolt Trading in San Antonio.
S&P 500 futures rose 3.5 points and were above fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures gained 30 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 8 points.
The payrolls increase was the largest since March 2007. About 48,000 temporary workers for the decennial census were hired last month, less than some anticipated, while private payrolls jumped 123,000.
"The real surprise is the low number of census and temp workers, slightly more than half of the 162,000 gain in March. Traders and investors will see this as a good sign once they digest the figures over the weekend because permanent hiring was much better than anticipated," said Schoenberger.
Futures were open for an abbreviated session on CME Globex until 9:15 a.m. (1315 GMT).
(Reporting by David Gaffen; Editing by Padraic Cassidy