The COVID-19 health emergency continues in the Garden State, and more than 1 million New Jerseyans have filed unemployment claims over the past 3 months because of the pandemic -- but many of them expect things to improve sooner rather than later.

A new Monmouth University Poll finds 50% of residents in the Garden State and across the nation feel the pandemic has had a major impact on their daily lives, but Polling Institute director Patrick Murray said that statistic is waning.

"It was 62% back in April, and I think that’s an indication that most people think it’s coming down," Murray said.

He said only 30% of Republicans now believe the pandemic has had a major impact on their lives, compared with 65% of Democrats.

Murray said the survey also finds 29% of respondents report someone in their household has been laid off from work because of COVID-19, "but one of the things that looks positive for the future is that many of them expect to be back at work."

“We found the vast majority of them expect that they will be back in their jobs, the same jobs, by Labor Day,” Murray said.

He noted 21% of respondents say they’re struggling to pay their bills now, and that’s similar to past polls. But 65% say that they feel their finances overall are basically stable.

Meanwhile, the poll finds 11% of respondents report their finances are actually improving.

Murray said despite the struggles many have been going through, there’s a strong sense of optimism about the coming months.

“Sixty-four percent of those who have been laid off expect they’re going to be able to jump back into their same job," Murray said. "Most of them say they’re going to be back on that job within the next couple of months."

The poll finds 16% are already back at work, 25% say they’re going to be back at work in the next few weeks and another 22% say they’ll go back before the end of the summer.

Another 18% say it will take them longer to find employment, and 2% say they will never return to work.

Not surprisingly, the pandemic has disrupted vacation plans for many.

Murray said before the outbreak 63% of Americans planned to take a trip this summer, but now only 14% report they will definitely do so.

The poll also finds 7 in 10 people remain at least somewhat concerned about someone in their family becoming seriously ill because of COVID-19, but the number of those very concerned, 37%, is down slightly from 42% in May.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted on the phone, between May 28 and June 1, 2020 with a total of 807 adults. Question results have a margin of error of +/- 3.5%.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com