The headline numbers from the jobs report sent the market higher in early trading. The Labor Department said the U.S. added 146,000 jobs last month, more than economists had expected. The unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent from 7.9 percent, the lowest in nearly four years.
The overall report, however, painted a more restrained view of the economy.
"If you delve into that report a little more, there are some disturbing issues," said Brian Lund, who is based in Los Angeles as executive vice president and co-founder of the online brokerage Ditto Trade.
Among them: The unemployment rate fell largely because discouraged unemployed workers stopped looking for work, which meant they were no longer counted among the unemployed. Also, the Labor Department revised previously released jobs numbers downward, saying that employers added 49,000 fewer jobs in October and September than initially estimated.
Lund also wasn't so sure about the government's statement that Hurricane Sandy "did not substantively impact" the unemployment numbers. He expected Sandy's detrimental effects to show up in jobs reports over the next couple of months, as businesses figure out their post-storm plans.
"If you have Sandy, you don't automatically lose your job," Lund said. "Businesses take time to say, 'Oh, what's going on, can we go forward, do we need to cut people to survive? It's not until later that they start laying off."
Nicholas Colas, chief market strategist for ConvergEx in New York, was similarly unimpressed by the jobs numbers. In a note to clients, he said U.S. unemployment seems to be more consistent with "an ongoing recession than expansion."
In the recession of the early 1990s and its aftermath, the highest rate of unemployment was 7.8 percent. In the recession of the early 2000s and its aftermath, the unemployment rate never got above 6.3 percent.
This time has been harsher. In late 2009, shortly after the recession officially ended, the unemployment rate peaked at 10 percent. For two years after that, it stayed above 9 percent.
At the end of the day, the Dow was up 81.09 points to 13,155.13. The S&P 500, where Apple's weight is 4 percent, was up but by a smaller proportion, rising 4.13 to 1,418.07. The Nasdaq composite index, where Apple accounts for a hefty 12 percent, fell 11.23 to 2,978.04.
Apple fell $13.99 to $533.25, or 2.6 percent. That's part of a longer trend: Apple's stock has plunged nearly 24 percent since the iPhone 5 went on sale Sept. 21. Investors are wondering how long the company can keep the momentum going with its popular iPhone and iPad devices.
Outside of Apple, there's another significant cloud hanging over the market. Congress and the White House are trying to hammer out an agreement on government spending and tax rates before Jan. 1. If they don't, lower government spending and higher taxes will kick in, a situation that's been nicknamed the "fiscal cliff."
The fiscal cliff is already taking a toll on people's confidence and making them nervous about spending, said Bernie Williams, vice president of discretionary money management at USAA Investments in San Antonio, Texas. He pointed to recent announcements from retailers like Target and Kohl's, both of which reported lower November sales, even though analysts had expected increases.
"There are more things on the plate to worry about than normal," Williams said. "The consumer is weak, their confidence is being hit by the fiscal cliff, and then more importantly, you look ahead to next year and all the taxes are (likely) rising. ... If you're a paycheck-to-paycheck person, that's going to hurt."
Traders have been indecisive as well. In the 22 trading days since the presidential election, the Dow has been up 11 and down 11.
AIG, the bailed-out insurance company, rose more than 2 percent, up 87 cents to $34.13. A group of Chinese companies is in talks to buy AIG's aircraft leasing unit, which could help AIG raise cash to pay off more of its government loans.
The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose to 1.63 percent from 1.59 percent late Thursday, a sign that investors were putting more money in stocks.