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NJ Biz Leaders Less Optimistic After Sandy [AUDIO]

The recovery from super-storm Sandy will be long and that has many Garden State business leaders more pessimistic about the state’s economy than they were in May. That’s according to the just-released New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Business Climate Survey.

Seaside Heights boardwalk after Sandy
Seaside Heights boardwalk after Sandy (Matthew White, Townsquare Media NJ)

Nearly a quarter of respondents expect the state’s economy to be “moderately worse” or “worse” over the next 12 months. That’s a sharp increase from a May 2012 survey of state Chamber members in which only 6 percent of expected the economy to wane.

“Let’s look at that in context,” says Tom Bracken, president and CEO of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce. “That means that 75% of the people are optimistic (and) seven months ago the fiscal cliff wasn’t as prominent, health care issues and costs were still there, but we hadn’t had Sandy hit us so you have to understand that the environment is very different right now than it was back then.”

When asked how long it will take New Jersey to completely recover economically from Sandy, half of the respondents said more than a year and more than a third think it will take three years or more.

Bracken says, “This is a not a short-term turn around. People need to re-build. People need to recover. It’s going to take a while.”

State Chamber members are also less positive about the prospects of their companies’ revenue, with 62 percent expecting revenue to increase over the next 12 months. That’s down from 67.2 percent who responded that way in the spring survey seven months ago. Respondents also are more pessimistic about profits, with exactly half expecting increases over the next 12 months, down from 56 percent who responded that way in the spring.

There is one area of optimism: hiring.

Four in 10 respondents (40.4 percent) said they expect their company to increase their workforce over the next 12 months. That is significantly higher than the 28.8 percent who responded that way seven months ago. Nearly half (46.3 percent) of the Chamber members expect no change in the jobs picture.

In the wake of Sandy, Chamber members continue to give Governor Chris Christie high marks. They are far less complimentary when it comes to President Barack Obama.

When asked to evaluate the way Christie handled Sandy, 82.8 percent say “excellent.” More than three quarters of respondents say they will either definitely vote for Christie for re-election or are leaning toward voting for him. More than half the respondents (56.6 percent) claim they would support Christie running for president in 2016, while 21.2 percent say they wouldn’t support Christie in a run for the White House.

Bracken says, “This drives home the message that Governor Christie has sent – our leaders in Trenton need to put aside political games and come together to rebuild our state. Business owners have to do the same.”

Half of the respondents say Obama’s reelection in November made them less optimistic about New Jersey’s economy, while 22 percent say his election makes them more optimistic.

The biannual New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Business Climate Survey is designed to measure the outlook of the state Chamber members, which range from single entrepreneurs to Fortune 500 companies in a wide array of fields. A total of 108 members participated in the survey between Dec. 3 and Dec. 24. Most say they are presidents and CEOs or senior level executives.

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