From the APP:
New Jersey’s business climate forecast remains chilly.
As they did a year ago, nearly half of the state’s businesses expect state economic conditions to weaken in the first six months of the coming year, while only 13 percent expect improvement, according to a report released Wednesday by the New Jersey Business and Industry Association. They are more optimistic about sales and profits for their own businesses.
However, the 1,300 businesses that responded to the annual survey expect the economic decline to be moderate, said Philip Kirschner, president of the NJBIA. Favorable business conditions peaked in 2005 and have declined rapidly since.
“Not only has business activity slowed since 2005,” Kirschner said, “but it has also fallen close to recession levels.”
The cost of running a business in the state was a main factor worrying respondents, with rising health care costs remaining the biggest problem.
“Health care costs are just astronomical,” said Philip Brilliant, chief operating officer of Brilliant Lewis Environmental Services and former president of the Ocean County Business Association.
Matthew Wright, president of Apgar Bros. Inc., a Bound Brook trucking company, said, “Insurance costs are more troubling than fuel costs because we can’t control them.”
Businesses expect slow job growth as well. Sixty-one percent expect employment to remain the same, and only a quarter expect to increase hiring.
The state’s growth in private-sector jobs is about half the national rate, according to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Jim Kocsi, district director for the U.S. Small Business Administration, said businesses are “cautious” about expanding because of an up-and-down stock market and a struggling housing market.
“We are in this hold mode right now where people are saying, “Maybe I should just lay low for a while and see which way this is breaking,”‘ Kocsi said.