The coronavirus pandemic is still consuming plenty of headlines and concerns, but workers are much more confident about the job market heading into the new year, compared to a year ago, according to an annual survey by the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University.

"One year ago, 3 in 4 workers said it was not a good time to look for a job. In the survey we just did, it was completely flipped — 3 in 4 workers say it is a good time to get a quality job right now," said Carl Van Horn, director of the Work Trends project.

In the survey of more than 1,000 adults, less than a quarter of respondents said they're "very concerned" about the current unemployment rate, or the job market for those looking for work. In December 2020, 41% of respondents said they were very concerned about the unemployment rate, and 43% said they were very concerned about the market for job seekers.

"Compared to a year ago, workers' increased optimism about the labor market helps explain their willingness to change jobs in search of better pay or working conditions, quit working for a few months, or even retire," Van Horn said.

Fifty percent of employed respondents expressed that they were "extremely" or "very" confident that they could find a new job if necessary, compared to 27% in December 2020.

"Wages are going up and there are many more openings," Van Horn said. "The perceptions that Americans have about the cost of living and the labor market, compared to the actual data, are correct."

Concerns about cost of living did spike compared to last year, Van Horn noted. In this survey, 60% of respondents said they're very or somewhat concerned about cost-of-living increases, compared to 4 in 10 a year ago.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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