Sales, employment and profits at New Jersey businesses improved for a third consecutive year in 2012, reaching the highest levels of the past five years, and the business outlook calls for continued improvement in the year ahead, NJBIA said today in releasing the findings of its 2013 Business Outlook Survey.

Phil Kirscher, NJBIA President
(Stacy Proebstle, Townsquare Media)

Notably, 19 percent of businesses responding to the annual fall survey anticipate hiring more workers in 2013, while only 11 percent expect to make workforce reductions.

The net percentage of companies anticipating the need to hire additional workers is therefore 8 percent, the highest level of the past five years.

Survey participants also expressed more confidence in New Jersey as a place for business expansion. And they viewed New Jersey more favorably, when compared to other states, in areas where it once fared poorly, such as its attitude toward business, controlling government spending and its ability to attract new business.

“The findings of this year’s survey are encouraging,” said NJBIA President Philip Kirschner, who presented the findings in a news conference at the Association’s Trenton headquarters. “Business is picking up, business confidence is rising, and growing numbers of businesses believe New Jersey is on the right track.”

The fall survey, now in its 54th year, is the oldest and most reliable indicator of current and future business conditions in New Jersey. A total of 1,470 companies from every major industry in all 21 counties participated in the survey, which was conducted in September. Most respondents were small companies with between 1 and 49 employees.

Among other key survey findings:

Asked to rate the performance of government leaders, businesses gave Governor Chris Christie high marks for the third year in a row, with 73 percent saying he is doing a good-to-excellent job. This is statistically unchanged from the 74 percent giving the Governor high marks in the two previous surveys. The Legislature maintained its improved ratings, with 26 percent saying the Legislature is doing a good-to-excellent job; 50 percent, a fair job; and 24 percent, a poor job.

New Jersey continued to make steady improvement in the eyes of business as a place for business expansion. Twenty-two percent of respondents said the state is a good or very good place in which to expand their business facilities, up from 18 percent last year and a long-term low of 9 percent the year before that.

The survey’s indicator for current sales activity moved into positive territory for the first time in five years. Forty-one percent of companies reported higher sales revenues in 2012 and 35 percent reported lower sales revenues.

The sales outlook for 2013 has also improved markedly. Forty-nine percent of respondents anticipate higher sales revenues in 2013 and 17 percent anticipate lower sales, while the rest expect little or no change. The net percentage of companies anticipating higher sales is therefore 32 percent.

The outlook of individual companies for spending and profits has likewise improved, as shown on the table Outlook of Individual Companies. A net 19 percent of businesses surveyed expect to increase spending next year, and a net 23 percent expect profits to increase.

The business outlook for the New Jersey economy has also improved and is now positive for the first time in eight years, with 29 percent expecting state economic conditions to improve in the first six months of 2013, 25 percent expecting them to deteriorate, and the rest expecting little or no change.

When asked how they expect their own industries to perform in the first six months of 2013, 29 percent said they expect conditions to improve and 26 percent said expect conditions to deteriorate, with the rest expecting conditions to stay about the same. This leaves a net positive outlook of 3 percent for companies’ own industries, the highest level of the past three years.