A just-released survey finds a growing number of New Jersey companies expect the economy to shift into high-gear next year.

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During a news conference in Trenton, Phil Kirschner, the President of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, said the results of the Business Outlook Survey for 2014 are very positive.

"Better than they were last year, and indicate continued improvement in the state economy," he said.

He pointed out the survey shows the state sales outlook has brightened for the 4th year in a row.

"And projected profits for the upcoming year are also higher than this past year - 52 percent of companies say they expect profits to rise, and 18 percent expect a decline," Kirschner explained.

He also said as the economy improves, so does the willingness of companies to increase spending for their own businesses.

"Forty-seven percent believe they will spend more on purchases in 2014, and the survey also indicates a brighter employment outlook in 2014," Kirschner said. "Twenty-six percent of companies anticipate hiring additional employees next year, while 9 percent say they will reduce their workforce."

Kirschner stressed that, overall, there is clearly more optimism among our member businesses than there was last year.

So, what is the biggest obstacle for businesses?

"Health insurance costs were identified as the top challenge," he said. "Eighty-percent of those surveyed expect the cost of employee health benefits to rise in 2014. When asked about the Affordable Care Act, 60 percent said they expected the impact to be negative."