A recent survey finds many New Jersey business owners are cautiously optimistic about the coming new year and what it could mean for sales and profit.

(Keith Brofsky, ThinkStock)

The 56th annual New Jersey Business and Industry Association Business Outlook survey reveals cautious optimism by member companies.

"The sales, profit and employment outlook for 2015 remains positive," said Michele Siekerka, the NJBIA president during a presentation in Trenton.

Siekerka said members believe the Garden State is moving in the right direction, and the outlook for sales in 2015 is among the highest ratings in a decade.

"Fifty-one percent expect dollar volume of their company sales to increase in 2015," she said, "while 16 percent expect sales to decrease."

At the same time, many companies expect profits to improve.

"As we might expect, higher sales and profits lead to increased employment opportunities, and for the third consecutive year, employers expect to hire additional workers in 2015," she said.

Despite the positive outlook, Siekerka said "there's some concern about the state's burdensome tax climate, and executive and legislative branch led by opposing parties, and a difficult state budget cycle yet to come."

At the same time, she said the high cost of health care remains a top area of concern.

"Fifty-nine percent of respondents reported that federal health care reform has had a negative impact on their businesses, and the cost of health care is expected to continue to outpace general inflation. Eighty-five percent expect the cost of employee benefits to rise in 2015," Siekerka said.

The survey also found Gov. Chris Christie remains popular with the business community.

"Fifty-seven percent say his performance is good to excellent," Siekerka said, "and that makes him the most popular governor among respondents since 1991."