TRENTON — New Jersey businesses don't really like much about the state in which they operate, but most expect an uptick in sales and profits in 2019, according to a survey released Thursday.

And, the survey finds, if the Garden State eventually comes around to instituting a $15-per-hour minimum wage, you can expect a spike in prices at a number of spots.

The New Jersey Business & Industry Association's 60th Annual Business Outlook Survey took the pulse of nearly 900 member companies.

"Our members are really bullish on their own performance. Basically, the things they can control, they feel very confident about," NJBIA President and CEO Michele Siekerka told New Jersey 101.5. "But when we ask them about New Jersey's economy, sadly they don't feel so bullish."

Sixty-two percent of businesses believe their sales will rise in 2019, and 9 percent expect a decrease in sales. That differential is better than what was recorded with last year's survey.

More than three-quarters of respondents said they would provide wage increases in 2019, ranging from 1 to 4.9 percent. Nearly 40 percent expect to increase hiring.

But while 83 percent of businesses rated the performance of the U.S. economy as "excellent" or "good," only 40 percent gave the same grades to the Garden State.

At least half of respondents said New Jersey is worse in taxes and fees; controlling government spending; controlling healthcare costs; attracting new business; controlling labor costs; and regulatory compliance costs, compared to other states.

Michele Siekerka, NJBIA President
Michele Siekerka, president of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association (Dino Flammia, Townsquare Media NJ)

"I think it's fair to say that the tax increases that were imposed on the business community this year, as well as paid sick leave and other mandates, are driving this feeling," Siekerka said.

New Jersey is at or near the top among all states in tax categories including income, sales, property, corporate and inheritance taxes, the NJBIA report noted.

Concerned with a potential increase in the state's minimum wage, 66 percent of NJBIA member companies said the move will impact their business; 39 percent said the impact would be significant.

About a third of businesses said they'd raise prices to offset increased costs caused by a hefty hike in the minimum wage. About a quarter indicated they'd reduce staff and/or hours.

A bill introduced Thursday by Assembly Speaker Craigh Coughlin would hike New Jersey's minimum wage to $15 an hour over six years. Siekerka said the bill advocates a "slow and steady pathway" to $15, as the Association had been advocating for.

"However, we are going to continue on amendments because we believe the exceptions to the rule don't go far enough," she said.

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