New unemployment benefits came in a little less than expected last week, although US employment growth remains sluggish.

Initial unemployment insurance claims for the week ended Jan. 30 were 779,000, the Department of Labor reported Thursday. That was below the estimate of 830,000 by economists polled by Dow Jones.

The value was the lowest since Nov. 28 as the U.S. economy slowly recovered from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The total is a decrease of 33,000 compared to the downward revised figure of 812,000 in the previous week.

The ongoing receivables also continued to decline, falling by 193,000 to 4.6 million compared to the previous week. The pandemic peak for ongoing claims was 24.9 million in early May. The ongoing damage data is one week behind the first damage cases.

In addition, the number of beneficiaries fell sharply, dropping by almost half a million to 17.8 million. This reflects a continued decline in those receiving pandemic program benefits, which was slightly offset by those with enhanced benefits.

With unemployment still high, the Biden government is working on a plan to enforce additional incentive controls for Americans, as well as improved compensation.

Last week’s decline in claims was mostly due to a decrease of more than 55,000 in Illinois, although much of that decrease was offset by a gain of more than 46,000 in California, according to unadjusted numbers.

The report comes ahead of the Ministry of Agriculture’s payroll release on Friday. The Dow Jones estimate for this sum is 50,000, with the unemployment rate constant at 6.7%.

Although the labor force recovery has a long way to go, there have been some encouraging signs of late. ISM manufacturing and services reports showed companies are hiring workers, while ADP’s private payrolls, released Wednesday, showed better-than-expected growth of 174,000.

In other business news on Thursday, productivity declined 4.8% year-on-year in the fourth quarter, worse than forecast for a 2.8% decline, while unit labor costs rose 6.8% above its 5% estimate.