TRENTON – The business closures brought on by the pandemic might not be over yet, if the results of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association’s annual business outlook survey are any indication.

The survey found that 28% of business owners said they will look to sell or close their business sooner than previously anticipated due to the continuing challenges of staffing, mandates, restrictions and lower revenue. Another 31% said they are still determining their plans.

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Chrissy Buteas, chief government affairs officer for the NJBIA, said employer morale is a concern.

“They’re unsure of their trajectory and direction moving forward. The challenges over the last 20 months were real, and if you’re a business owner, you may be questioning whether you want to continue operating in these challenging times,” Buteas said.

New Jersey has the nation’s third-highest unemployment rate, 7%, topped only by California and Nevada.

“So, do you continue or do you look to sell or merge with somebody else?” Buteas said. “This is something new to our survey results. We haven’t seen these types of numbers before, and that is very concerning to us.”

The overall cost of doing business was selected by 28% of business owners as their biggest challenge, displacing the perennial top pick, property taxes. Also, 77% expect their health benefit costs to rise in 2022 and 69% expect to pay more in property taxes.

“There is no question that the continued challenges are wearing down some business owners,” said Michele Siekerka, the NJBIA’s chief executive officer. “When nearly 60% of employers are either looking to end their businesses sooner, or considering it, due to these continued obstacles, it should be a red flag for our policymakers who might consider more mandates or policies that make it more costly to do business in New Jersey.”

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Forty-two percent of respondents rated New Jersey’s economy as fair, while 25% say it’s good, 29% say it’s poor and 3% say it’s excellent. Asked how the state economy will perform over the first half of 2022, 22% expect it to be better and 44% said it would be worse – which is more pessimistic than a year ago.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com.

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