The Dow industrials climbed on Friday after Wal-Mart unveiled plans for a stock buyback, while the broad market's gains were muted after government data showed employers cut sharply fewer jobs than expected in May and the jobless rate hit a 26-year high.

The Labor Department reported that employers cut 345,000 jobs in May -- substantially less than analysts had forecast -- but the U.S. unemployment rate hit 9.4 percent, its highest since 1983. The data underscored doubts about the U.S. economy's health.

Initially, stocks rose and the blue-chip Dow gained more than 1 percent. But as the session progressed, the major indexes reversed course and briefly turned negative. By late morning, stocks resumed their advance, but the gains were much more modest than they were earlier in the session.

Wal-Mart's stock, up 0.4 percent at $51.07, gave the Dow industrials a boost after the huge U.S. discount retailer said its board has authorized a $15 billion stock-repurchase plan.

I'm surprised the market is not up stronger after that non-farm payrolls number and I think that is going to give people a moment of pause, said Angel Mata, managing director of listed equity trading at Stifel Nicolaus, in Baltimore.

He added that the Wal-Mart announcement was a short-term shot in the arm that gave buyers a reason to come in.

As a discount retailer, Wal-Mart is one of the companies expected to thrive in a recession.

A large boost to the Dow and the S&P 500 industrials <.GSPI> came from Boeing , up 4.4 percent at $52.80 a day after United Airlines asked the U.S. aircraft maker and its European rival EADS to bid on an order of up to 150 jetliners.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> gained 44.95 points, or 0.51 percent, to 8,795.19. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> rose 1.38 points, or 0.15 percent, to 943.84. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> added 2.78 points, or 0.15 percent, to 1,852.80.

The S&P 500 is up roughly 35 percent from a 12-year closing low hit in early March. To sustain the run-up, investors are looking for more concrete signs that the economy is stabilizing.

Among the Nasdaq's major advancers on Friday were Apple , up 0.7 percent at $144.70, and Qualcomm , up 0.8 percent at $45.65. Analysts see smartphones like Apple's iPhone as gaining even more favor with consumers and taking market share from small personal computers called netbooks. [nTP30434] Qualcomm is one of the largest suppliers of chips for cell phones.

(Editing by Jan Paschal)