New Jersey's unemployment rate continues to hover around 9 percent, higher than other states in the region, and the state also continues rank near the bottom in the nation when it comes to its business tax climate, but this isn't stopping Garden State business owners and executives from supporting Gov. Chris Christie.

Governor Christie during LBI Town Hall (Governor's Office/Tim Larsen)

Two out of three business owners and executives say they either will or probably will vote to re-elect Christie this November no matter who the Democrat candidate is. Only 9 percent say the same thing about the Democrat's nominee, State Senator Barbara Buono according to the latest ParenteBeard - New Jersey Chamber Business Climate Survey.

"Because Gov. Christie, with help from the Democratic-controlled Legislature, has supported the pro-growth policies that the business community has advocated for years, it's no surprise that support for him is so overwhelming," says Tom Bracken, president and CEO of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce.

New Jersey's Economy

Respondents were also asked about New Jersey's economy as a whole. They're expressing some optimism. Fifty-two percent think the state's economy will fare moderately or much better over the next 12 months. In the Chamber's fall survey, taken shortly after Superstorm Sandy hit, only 45.5 percent answered that way.

There is some concern when business leaders were asked about their own companies' profitability. Last fall, 50 percent of respondents said they believed their companies' profitability would increase over the next year. Now only 44 percent believe that. Last fall, only 22 percent foresaw their companies' profits decreasing. Now 36 percent say they foresee profit decreases.

"I think people are being a little more realistic in how long it's going to take the state to come back from Sandy," explains Bracken.

Sandy Impact On Tourism

Three quarters (77 percent) of respondents believe it will take New Jersey two or more years to fully recover economically from Sandy.

"Probably a lot of that is based on the fact that it's taken longer than anybody wanted, including the (Christie) Administration to get the dollars from Washington," says Bracken.

Vacation plans remain intact for most. 72 percent of respondents say the storm has not affected their plans to visit the Jersey Shore this summer, and 10 percent say the storm made them more likely to visit the Shore.

"Many areas hit by the storm have already re-opened or will re-open for the summer," says Walter Brasch, managing partner for ParenteBeard's New Jersey Metro Region. "This is good news, considering the state and our beach towns are working hard to drive home the point that the Jersey Shore remains a great place to vacation. The results of our survey suggest that the 'Jersey Shore is Open for Business' publicity campaign is working."

Employment Outlook

Almost three quarters (74.5 percent) of respondents expect the number of jobs in their industries to stay the same or increase over the next 12 months. That's up from 72.8 percent in the fall.

"The business community has been optimistic for quite awhile and this is just a continuation of an optimistic business environment," explains Bracken. "More jobs (means) more tax dollars generated and the ability to do more for business and recycle those dollars in a positive way."

Health Coverage

Nearly nine in 10 respondents (89 percent) say their companies offer health insurance to employees. When asked what steps their companies have taken over the past 12 months to contain the cost of health insurance, the top three answers are:

  • Asked employees to contribute more toward the cost of their premiums (27 percent)
  • Switched to a new, less expensive insurance plan (21 percent)
  • Revised the depth of coverage in the existing plan (21 percent)

More than three quarters of the respondents (27 percent) say their companies took no steps over the past 12 months to contain health care costs.

Survey Facts

The Business Climate Survey is designed to measure the outlook of the state's business leaders, ranging from single entrepreneurs to CEOs of Fortune 500 companies in a wide array of fields. A total of 107 business leaders participated in the survey between April 2 and May 3. Most say they are presidents and CEOs, or senior level executives.