U.S. stocks rose on Friday as data showed U.S. employers cut fewer jobs than expected last month, signaling a continued recovery in the economy.

February's non-farm employment numbers showed a loss of 36,000 jobs in the month against expectations in a Reuters survey for a loss of 50,000 jobs. The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.7 percent, although the impact of inclement weather on the figures was unclear.

Analysts were concerned the severe winter weather that affected large swaths of the country would cause a larger drop in payrolls.

The employment situation still isn't great, but what we saw today shows that we're no longer deteriorating, and that is definitely a positive, said Kurt Brunner, portfolio manager at Swarthmore Group in Philadelphia.

Today's data could mean that we're only going to improve from here.

Diversified manufacturer 3M Co gained 1.4 percent to $82.17 after the jobs data showed the manufacturing sector added 1,000 jobs in February.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> gained 94.85 points, or 0.91 percent, to 10,539.07. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> gained 11.75 points, or 1.05 percent, to 1,134.72. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> gained 25.71 points, or 1.13 percent, to 2,318.11.

The Nasdaq was boosted by a 3.4 percent gain in Apple Inc after it said the first iPad computers will be in U.S. stores in early April.

The jobs data also provided a boost to commodities, with crude oil hitting a seven-week high. Energy shares <.GSPE> were the strongest performing sector in the S&P index, up 1.6 percent.

Dow components Chevron Corp and Exxon Mobil Corp rose, with Chevron up 1.8 percent to $74.37 and Exxon up 1.4 percent to $66.39.

Declining shares included Solarfun Power Holdings , which fell 8.6 percent to $6.88 after it reported its fourth-quarter results and said it expects its first-quarter average selling prices for photovoltaic module shipments to fall about 10 percent.

Transatlantic Holdings Inc shares fell 3.7 percent to $51.75 after American International Group Inc said it would sell its 13.8 percent stake in the company. AIG gained 3.7 percent to $27.97.

For the week, all indexes are up more than 2 percent, with the Nasdaq up more than 3 percent.

(Editing by Padraic Cassidy)