Compared to the same time last year, New Jersey businesses aren't as pessimistic about the immediate future.

But owners still have plenty of concerns headed into 2024 — many are just hoping to turn a profit.

In a business outlook survey released on Monday by the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, 37% of members said they believe they'll actually make money in 2024, and 28% anticipate they won't. That 9% margin is the lowest profit outlook recorded by the NJBIA since 2012.

Still, more than three-quarters of respondents said they plan to increase wages in 2024, and 28% expect to increase their employment numbers.

NJBIA Business Outlook Survey for 2024
NJBIA Business Outlook Survey for 2024

The 2024 report follows a dismal outlook that was released ahead of 2023. Historic inflation resulted in negativity among business owners that appears to be leveling off ahead of the new year.

"While it's clear businesses are still struggling with inflation and the increased costs of running their operations, it does appear that last year represented a low water mark that we're hopefully crawling out from," said NJBIA President/CEO Michele Siekerka.

In the survey, just 4% of respondents said that Gov. Phil Murphy and lawmakers have done enough to address business affordability over the past 12 months. This year, Murphy announced that he would let a 2.5% corporate business surtax sunset on Jan. 1, 2024.

NJ businesses taking on increased energy costs

More than half of the surveyed businesses indicated that increased energy costs have been a detriment to their operations over the past two years.

In response, they've reduced usage of utilities, increased prices for goods and services, and reduced workforce costs, the survey finds.

Seventy-three percent are either somewhat opposed or strongly opposed to New Jersey's ban on selling new gas-powered vehicles by 2035. Of the businesses that currently utilize at least one company-only vehicle, 91% said those vehicles run on gas.

Of the businesses with only gas-powered cars in their fleet, 56% said their next business vehicle will be gas-powered, not electric.

NJBIA's report is based on more than 500 responses from business owners and executive staff. Most respondents were small businesses (more than 60% employ fewer than 25 people).

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