Many Garden State companies are doing well, and expecting to do even better in 2018, according to an industry survey.

“The state of the economy right now in the State of New Jersey is stronger since any time before the recession, and we believe it’s even stronger than it even had been coming into 2000. We should be very excited about that,” said Michele Siekerka, the president of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association.

The New Jersey Business & Industry Association’s 59th Annual Business Outlook Survey finds:

• 58 percent of members said sales would rise in 2018, and only 9 percent said sales would fall.
• 55 percent forecast profits will go up next year, while 12 percent said they expected profits to fall.
• 31 percent of those responding said they will increase hiring next year, while 6 percent said they would decrease employment.

“Companies overall are feeling very good about increasing sales, profits and employment as they go into 2018, and in fact they’re feeling good in high numbers, which we like to see very much,” Siekerka said.

But the news isn’t all good.

Sixty-four percent of company bosses said increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour — as pledged by incoming Gov. Phil Murphy — was concerning, and would have an impact on their business.

“Twenty-nine percent said they would be reducing staff, 27 percent said they would be reducing hours, 30 percent said they’d be raising prices, and 11 percent said they would automate,” Siekerka said. “Also, the high cost of living and the tax burden continue to disadvantage New Jersey businesses, compared to their peers, or other companies they run in other states.”

Siekerka said health benefits, property taxes and overall cost of doing business are, as usual, the top-three concerns on the mind of New Jersey business.

The NJBIA survey also finds:

• 78 percent expect healthcare costs to rise next year, while 56 percent believe they have been negatively impacted by the Affordable Care Act – down from 64 percent last year.
• 83 percent said New Jersey is worse than other states when it comes to taxes and fees.
• 71 percent said New Jersey is worse in controlling the cost of regulatory compliance than other states.
• 61 percent said New Jersey was worse in controlling healthcare costs.
• 55 percent said New Jersey was worse in timeliness of issuing permits.
• 76 percent said New Jersey has not made progress over the last year in easing regulatory burdens for business.

The survey also found only 40 percent of members surveyed said they would stay in New Jersey after they retire, but last year 32 percent said they were committed to staying in the Garden State for their golden years.

Despite some ongoing concerns about the future, Siekerka said companies are optimistic moving forward.

“New Jersey businesses are bullish on their opportunity to do well in the year coming, and that’s very, very important, we need more of those tailwinds to keep us going," sje said.

A total of 1,010 members responded to the survey. Most were small businesses with fewer than 25 employees.

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

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