By Jonnelle Marte

(Reuters) – U.S. consumers are more optimistic that the worst of the economic crisis sparked by the coronavirus pandemic is behind them, but are still concerned about their earnings and their ability to find new jobs if they become unemployed, according to a survey released on Monday by the New York Federal Reserve.

Workers became less concerned about becoming jobless, with consumers saying there was an average 15% chance that they would lose their jobs in the next year. That is the lowest since February, when consumers registered a 13.8% chance of losing their jobs over the next 12 months.

Consumers also expressed more confidence in their ability to pay their bills. The probability of missing a debt payment in the next three months dropped to an average 9.8% in June, the lowest since the survey launched in 2013 and down substantially from 16.2% in April.

The shift mirrors one in the labor market. The U.S. unemployment rate surged to 14.7% in April as businesses shut down to limit the spread of the virus. As some businesses hired workers back, the jobless rate declined to 11.1% in June. However, more than 32.9 million people collected unemployment checks in the third week of June, suggesting the labor market is years away from a full recovery.

Despite the tepid optimism, workers lowered their expectations for finding new work and for future earnings.

The median expectations for how earnings would grow over the next year dropped to 1.6% in June from 2.0% in May, hitting a series low. Workers earning less than $50,000 a year, and those without college degrees, expected the weakest earnings growth. (Graphic: Expected earnings growth over the next year, https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/qmyvmglggvr/Pasted%20image%201594657390397.png)

The average perceived probability of finding a new job after becoming unemployed dropped to 47.6%, down significantly from 63.7% a year ago.

The survey of consumer expectations is a monthly poll based on a rotating panel of 1,300 households.

(Reporting by Jonnelle Marte; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Chizu Nomiyama)

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