U.S. stock futures are higher ahead of the government's August unemployment report,which could have a big influence on whether the Federal Reserve starts to reduce its monthly bond purchases later this month.

The bond purchases are a key part of the Fed's economic stimulus program.

Dow Jones industrial futures are up 41 points at 14,958. S&P futures rose 5.25 points to 1,658.50. Nasdaq futures are up 12 points to 3,140.

Economists predict a gain of 177,000 jobs for August, up from 162,000 in July. The unemployment rate is expected to remain 7.4 percent.

The Federal Reserve meets Sept. 17-18, and many economists expect the Fed to decide then to slow its monthly bond purchases.

[Associated Press]