Against the backdrop of a still-struggling economy, New Jersey continues to make improvements in the eyes of CEOs over the past year both as a place to do business and expand their businesses, according to the newly-released 2013 C-Suite Survey conducted by the Rutgers University Bloustein School.

Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno attends the groundbreaking ceremony of the Prologis Pulaski Distribution Center in Jersey City. (NJ Office of Information Technology)

Twenty-five percent said New Jersey is a good-to-excellent place in which to do business.

That's up from 23 percent last year and 12 percent in the 2010 survey, which was conducted in the 4th quarter of 2009, before Gov. Chris Christie took office.

In the new survey, 48 percent says New Jersey was fair as a place in which to do business. Twenty-seven percent say it is poor in this regard, compared with 29 percent taking this view last year.

"Those saying it is good or excellent has now eclipsed 26 percent," explains James Hughes, the dean at Bloustein. "In 2009, zero percent said it was excellent."

Twenty-eight percent think New Jersey is a good-to-excellent place in which to expand their businesses, up from 24 percent last year and 11 percent in the 2010 survey. Forty-three percent say the state is fair. Twenty-nine percent say it was poor, compared with 33 percent taking this view last year.

"The numbers aren't where we would want them to be," says Hughes. "But it's certainly a dramatic improvement over where we were just four years ago."

When asked to describe New Jersey's attitude toward business, 47 percent say state government is encouraging or helpful. Thirty-four percent say the state is indifferent in its attitude toward business, about the same as last year, and 19 percent think it is hostile or difficult, the same as last year.

The question about government's attitude toward business is in the broad sense according to Hughes. He says it could mean different things to different people. Some might perceive it as a question about the Christie Administration while others could think of it in terms of the legislature or even certain regulatory agencies.

When asked if New Jersey is better or worse than other states in its total tax impact (state and local taxes), the survey participants took essentially the same view as they did in the previous survey, with two percent saying New Jersey is better and 86 percent saying it is worse. Ninety-three percent thought it was worse in 2009.

"There's been some progress on taxes and the like," says Hughes. "At least there haven't been any substantial tax increases."

When asked if they plan to expand employment over the next 12 months, 34 percent say yes, down from a four-year high of 42 percent in the previous survey. Twenty-two percent say they expect to reduce employment in the year ahead, up from 15 percent in the previous survey.

Just under seven-in-10 (68 percent) of the CEOs surveyed think the current state of the New Jersey economy is only fair or good. Just 16 percent say it's good to excellent, but taken in the context of recent history, that 16 percent is actually very positive news.

Highest Rating since Survey Began

"This is the best rating of the current state of the economy that we've had since we started conducting the C-Suite survey," explains James Hughes, the dean at Bloustein.

Four-in-10 respondents say the economy is better today than it was a year ago. In 2009, just 19 percent felt that way. Today, just 13 percent feel the economy has gotten worse over the last twelve months. 54 percent thought that in 2009.

Looking ahead 49 percent predict New Jersey's economy will improve over the next twelve months. One-in-ten feel it will get worse. In 2009, 28 percent thought the economy would get worse.