Stocks indicated a positive open even as the unemployment rate hit 9.7 percent for August.
Traders initially sold off after the jobs number was released, but tey ultimately focused on the slowing pace of layoffs as well as a number in total job cuts that was a bit better than expected.
After some significant gyrations, futures ended up about where they were before the numbers were announced, counteracting the hype that the Labor Department report would be the primary market mover of the day.
Heading into the Labor Day weekend, Wall Street was focusing on a variety of other issues in what is likely to be a slow trading day..
Wall Street's major averages did manage to register their first gains of the new month on Thursday.
Investors will also be keeping close watch on gold prices, with the December gold contract rising as high as $999.50 on Thursday. Gold hasn't closed above $1,000 since Feb. 20 but some investors are looking for prices approaching $1,200 an ounceby year's end.
In the only significant earnings report, H&R Block, the nation's biggest tax preparer, reported a larger-than-expected $133.6 million in the first quarter, about the same as a year ago, as acquisition expenses and other costs offset slightly higher revenues.
Block traditionally reports losses in three of its four quarters and makes its biggest profit in the quarter that includes the peak of its tax filing season. Shares dropped 4 percent in premarket trading.
Elsewhere, shares of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac both jumped premarket as the two agencies continue to be popular trading vehicles even though they are essentially wards of the government. Fannie shares were up 7.3 percent premarket while Freddie rose nearly 6 percent. The two government-sponsored entities have been among the most heavily traded issues on the New York Stock Exchange..
- Written by Peter Schacknow, Senior Producer, CNBC Breaking News Desk