Stocks slipped on Friday after a mixed payrolls report showed that while the U.S. unemployment rate dropped sharply last month, the number of new jobs barely grew.

Major indexes faced resistance after the Dow opened above the 12,000 mark for a third consecutive day.

U.S. employment rose by a meager 36,000 jobs in January, far less than expected, but the unemployment rate fell to its lowest level since April 2009.

Despite the general bullishness in the market, we've been trading sideways for a while because the market needs a small pullback to move beyond the technical ranges, said James Dailey, portfolio manager of TEAM Asset Strategy Fund in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was down 22.93 points, or 0.19 percent, at 12,039.33. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was down 3.31 points, or 0.25 percent, at 1,303.79. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was down 0.70 points, or 0.03 percent, at 2,753.18.

Both the Dow and the S&P 500 remain near their 2 1/2-year highs reached last Tuesday.

From a short-term perspective, the Dow has resistance at the 12,050 level and support at the key 12,000 region, said Joseph Hargett, analyst at Schaeffer's Investment Research in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians marched peacefully in Cairo on Friday to demand an immediate end to President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule.

Health insurer Aetna Inc forecast 2011 profit well above of Wall Street's target on Friday and increased its dividend, sending its shares 9.5 percent higher to $36.42.

Tyson Foods Inc advanced 6.5 percent to $18.70 after the company said quarterly earnings surged 86 percent as it sold beef and pork at much higher prices.

Weyerhaeuser Co returned to a profit in the fourth quarter, helped by a 25-percent jump in sales in its cellulose fibers business. The stock rose 3.9 percent to $24.50.

(Editing by Padraic Cassidy)