N.J. Businesses Say ’10 Outlook Is Sluggish, But Better, Survey Finds

BusinessManMore than a third of New Jersey businesses think the state’s economy will be in even worse shape next year — and that’s downright cheery, compared with the past four years, according to an industry survey out today. Businesses are coming off a year in which sales, profits and spending were at record lows, and most do not expect to hire any more workers this year, according to an annual survey released today by the New Jersey Business and Industry Association. Twenty-seven percent of New Jersey┬ábusinesses surveyed said they expected next year to be better than this one, the highest percentage since 2004. Thirty-six percent of businesses say 2010 will bring more of the same, while 37 percent say it will be worse. The association surveyed 1,400 businesses, 82 percent of whom have 49 or fewer employees.

Still, that’s better than the past three years, when about half of businesses predicted New Jersey’s economy would keep declining, while 15 percent or less thought things would improve. Last year, 57 percent of businesses surveyed said 2009 would be worse than 2008.

Overall, companies said they expected to see an increase in sales, but fewer expected to see an increase in profits.

“What that means is in order just to keep their employees and get some cash flow in the door, companies are willing to sell products and not make much money on them,” association president Philip Kirschner said.

The survey is not as optimistic as one put out a few months ago by another business group, the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, which said that most businesses thought they would do at least slightly better next year.

Almost half of New Jersey businesses surveyed have fewer workers this year than last, and 17 percent say they expect their employment rolls to go down even further this year. Economists say companies will not start hiring again for some time after the economy improves.

The businesses are much more optimistic about the overall U.S. economy, with 42 percent of respondents saying the national picture will improve next year, 39 percent saying it will stay the same and 19 percent saying it will get worse.

When it comes to they’re own industry, they’re fairly evenly split. Thirty-four percent say their industry will do better in 2010 than 2009, 35 percent say it will fare the same and 31 percent say it will be harder hit.

This is the 51st year the association has conducted the survey. Star Ledger.

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