U.S. stocks opened higher Friday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average edging closer to its record high, after the nonfarm payrolls report for April came in much stronger than expected. Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 288,000, according to the Labor Department, the largest gain since January 2012 and topping analysts' expectations of around 210,000. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate fell by 0.4 percentage point to 6.3 percent in April, the lowest level in five and a half years. "The labor market remains surprisingly and resiliently strong," said Bart van Ark, chief economist at the Conference Board, a non-profit economic research institute based in New York. Hiring, which perhaps would have happened earlier if not for the widespread inclement weather, aided the gain this month, but the more important point was that the economy had been gathering strength for some time, he said in a note Friday. U.S. factory orders for March will be released by the Commerce Department later on Friday. The three major stock indices are on track to end the week with modest gains. Shortly after the opening bell, the blue-chip Dow rose 17.99 points, or 0.11 percent, to 16,576.86. The broader S&P 500 gained 2.90 points, or 0.15 percent, to 1,886.58. The Nasdaq Composite Index added 13.23 points, or 0.32 percent, to 4,140.68. On the previous trading day, U.S. stocks ended in narrowly mixed territory, as investors grew cautious ahead of the closely watched non-farm report.