U.S. consumers less pessimistic about finances but overall expectations weak, survey shows

Sept 14 (Reuters) - U.S. consumers are feeling slightly less pessimistic about the housing market and their finances, but overall expectations about the labor market, income and spending remain weak when compared to pre-pandemic levels, according to a survey released on Monday by the New York Federal Reserve.

Most notably, consumers in all demographic groups reported a more positive outlook on the housing market, which has been supported by low interest rates. Respondents said in August that they expected home prices to grow by a median of 2.8% over the next year, up from 2% in July and approaching the 2019 average of 3%.

Perceptions about the labor market were mixed. In a sign of optimism, consumers said they felt they had a better chance of finding a new job after losing their current position, with the perceived odds rising to 50.7% in August from 48.9% in July - but remaining well below the 2019 average of 59.9%.

And the perceived chances of becoming unemployed over the next year increased for the second straight month to a mean of 18% in August, up from 16% in July and 13.8% in February. Fear of becoming unemployed increased the most for people without college degrees and with household incomes below $50,000.

Six months into the recession triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, the labor market is starting to show signs of scarring as retirements rise and more furloughs become permanent layoffs.

Median earnings growth expected for the next year remained unchanged at 2.0% in August, below its 2019 average level of 2.3%, according to the survey.

Median inflation expectations over the next year increased by 0.1 percentage point in August to 3.0%, and the outlook for inflation over the next three years increased by 0.3 percentage point to 3.0%.

The survey of consumer expectations is a monthly poll based on a rotating panel of 1,300 households. (Reporting by Jonnelle Marte Editing by Paul Simao)