U.S. stock index futures pointed to a sharply higher open on Friday as surprising May jobs data provided the most definitive evidence the recession was easing.

U.S, employers cut 345,000 jobs last month, the fewest since September, the government said, far less than the forecast of 520,000, while job losses in March and April were revised downward. But the unemployment rate rose to 9.4 percent, the highest since a matching rate in July 1983, from 8.9 percent in April.

I look through these numbers, and I'm trying to find something that is very disappointing, and I am very hard-pressed, said Hugh Johnson, chief investment officer at Johnson Illington Advisors in Albany, New York.

It seems to be consistent with the current view that although we are in a recession, the recession is clearly getting less worse.

S&P 500 futures rose 13.20 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 added 116 points, while Nasdaq 100 futures gained 13.50 points.

Construction industry payrolls fell 59,000 after dropping by 108,000 in April, providing a lift to home builder shares, such as Pulte Homes Inc

, up 3.8 percent to $8.86 and D.R. Horton Inc , up 4.4 percent to $9.82 in premarket trade.

Global miner Rio Tinto walked away from a deal to get $19.5 billion in funding from China's Chinalco on Friday in favor of a cost-saving iron ore joint venture with rival BHP Billiton and a share sale to cut its debt. [ID:nSYD73514] Aluminum producer Alcoa Inc rose 3.8 percent to $11.10.

Apple Inc shares rose 1.9 percent to $146.41 after the Wall Street Journal reported that Chief Executive Steve Jobs is on track to return to the company from a medical leave after being treated for a rare type of pancreatic cancer.

The Journal also reported the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp is aiming to shake up Citigroup Inc's top management, including replacing CEO Vikram Pandit, citing people familiar with the matter. Citigroup shares added 2.8 percent to $3.67 in premarket trade.

A U.S. federal appeals court will hear arguments on Friday to block the sale of Chrysler LLC to a group including Italian carmaker Fiat SpA and the U.S. government, arguing it violates longstanding bankruptcy law. The ruling will have implications for General Motors Corp , which filed for bankruptcy on June 1.

(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)