Employers feel more confident in the direction the state is heading, according to findings of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association's 2013 business outlook survey.

Stacy Proebstle, Townsquare Media

Sales, employment and profits at New Jersey businesses improved for a third straight year in 2012, reaching the highest levels of the past five years, according to the survey.

Inf fact, 19 percent of businesses anticipate hiring more workers, companies reported higher sales revenues, spending and profits has improved and businesses expect conditions to get better the first six months of 2013.

"I think the findings this year are very encouraging, businesses like the direction that the state is heading, they see the business climate is improving, I think they see the Governor and the Legislature are making efforts to improve the state for business," said NJBIA President Phil Kirschner.

According to the survey, businesses gave Governor Christie high marks for the third year in a row, with 73 percent saying he is doing a good or excellent job. The Legislature maintained its improved ratings, with 26 percent saying the Legislature is doing a good-to-excellent job; 50 percent, a fair job; and 24 percent, a poor job.

Survey participants also expressed more confidence in New Jersey as a place for business expansion. And they viewed New Jersey more favorably, when compared to other states, in areas where it once fared poorly, such as its attitude toward business, controlling government spending and its ability to attract new business.

Sales activity moved into positive territory for the first time in five years. Forty-one percent of companies reported higher sales revenues in 2012 and 35 percent reported lower sales revenues.

The sales outlook for 2013 has also improved markedly. Forty-nine percent of respondents anticipate higher sales revenues in 2013 and 17 percent anticipate lower sales, while the rest expect little or no change. The net percentage of companies anticipating higher sales is therefore 32 percent.

"Things are turning around in the state, for the first time in a few years we are seeing business outlooks return toward pre-recessionary levels," added Kirschner.