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Americans faced a tougher labour market in early summer as more people lost jobs during the pandemic and became more pessimistic about their employment prospects going forward, according to a survey released by the New York Federal Reserve on Monday.

Some 10.5% of consumers surveyed said they had become unemployed between March and July of this year, up from 2.8% in July 2019 and reaching a series high for the survey, which started in March 2014. The average expected likelihood of becoming unemployed also rose to 3.7% in July from 2% a year earlier.

Consumers also faced more challenges finding new jobs. The share of people who changed employers dropped to 4.4% in July from 6.2% a year earlier.

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Only 13.5% of individuals said they received at least one job offer in the prior four months, down from 21.0% in July 2019 – a figure that had been rising from March 2018 until March 2020, when the coronavirus began to spread around the world. The average expected likelihood of receiving a job offer in the next four months also dropped sharply to 18.5% in July from 24.1% a year earlier.

A separate survey released by the Fed last week found that government aid provided substantial relief to people affected by the pandemic, with more Americans overall reporting that they were doing OK financially as of July. However, the enhanced unemployment benefits and small business loans rolled out as part of the CARES Act expired in July and negotiations in Congress over another aid package are at a standstill.

The survey also found that people with work are generally more satisfied with their wages and benefits.

The labour survey is done as part of the New York Fed’s Survey of Consumer Expectations. Approximately 1,000 panelists are polled every four months about job transitions and their current job.

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