U.S. stocks were little changed on Friday as investors fretted about government data that gave conflicting signals about the job market, tempering some of the recent optimism about economic stabilization.

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 suggested the U.S. economic picture remained uncertain even after some recent signs of improvement.

Trading was choppy as the stock market initially started higher and then drifted lower as investors reassessed the implications of the latest jobs report.

There was a mixed bag from the economic news, said Ryan Detrick, senior technical strategist at Ohio-based Schaeffer's Investment Research.

Initially people saw the 345,000 number and everyone got a little excited, then realized the unemployment rate was worse than expected, and there's the fact that it's Friday and the sellers took advantage to take some profits.

Investors opted to book profits from the market's recent winners -- materials, energy, financial and technology shares.

Shares of JPMorgan dropped 1.6 percent to $34.79, while Exxon Mobil Corp dipped 0.3 percent to $72.80, and Newmont Mining shed 6 percent to $44.59.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> rose 26.55 points, or 0.30 percent, to 8,776.79. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> shed 2.41 points, or 0.26 percent, to 940.05. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> dipped 2.34 points, or 0.13 percent, to 1,847.68.

On Nasdaq, Intel Corp , a chipmaker, was the top drag, falling 1.8 percent to $15.84 after an industry forecast a drop in global chip sales.

Even so, those investors betting on a turnaround in global economic prospects snapped up shares of big manufacturers and exporters, including aircraft maker Boeing , up 4.5 percent at $52.83.

United Technologies Corp climbed 3 percent to $56.76. Despite a subdued session, all indexes were on track for a third straight weekly advance.

(Editing by Jan Paschal)