NEW JERSEY 101.5

New Jersey business leaders expressed optimism for next year, as well as caution, in a new survey from Provident Bank.

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With New Jersey's unemployment rate floating well above the national average, nearly 60 percent of business owners still said they plan to hire additional workers in 2014.

"While the recovery has been slow and Superstorm Sandy was a decidedly defining setback for businesses here in New Jersey, our research underscores a compelling outlook among New Jersey's business leaders here that better days lay ahead," said Chris Martin, president and CEO of Provident Bank.

Nearly 80 percent of business owners and members of executive management revealed they are either very or somewhat optimistic about their business outlook for 2014; the majority of respondents indicated their business will grow in the range of three to 10 percent.

Martin noted that a number of flourishing New Jersey businesses next year, however, will probably be those handling services related to cleanup from Sandy.

Provident Bank's survey also hinted at lessons learned by businesses over the last half of a decade. Close to 80 percent of business owners didn't borrow money for their businesses in 2013, and another 68 percent said they do not plan to borrow in 2014 either.

"These have been challenging years for New Jersey businesses, and the political and economic uncertainty have understandably impacted business owners' willingness to overextend themselves and take on additional debt," said Martin.

A third of business owners indicated that their businesses "held their own" during the last 12 months. More than 20 percent reported a minor struggle.