C-Suite survey shows continued optimism in New Jersey economy

NEW BRUNSWICK – New Jersey residents who are feeling more optimistic about the state’s economy are not alone.

New Jersey CEOs say the state’s business climate continues to improve and that they are feeling increasingly optimistic about it, according to the New Jersey Economic Policy Summit’s latest “C-Suite Survey.”

The results show that 81 percent of respondents rate the state’s economy as fair or excellent and 71 percent say the state is a fair or excellent place to do business, according to the survey.

The findings represent a jump of 34 percent and 51 percent, respectively, compared with the 2009 survey.

“On the trend line, it’s moving in the right direction,” said James Hughes, dean of the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers, which conducted the survey.

“The trajectory is basically positive,” he said, noting many of the companies that responded to the survey indicated plans for growth and expansion this year.

But despite the state’s accelerating economy, New Jersey still has a significant hurdle to overcome.

The state lost 248,000 jobs since the recession and, although it’s on pace to create about 42,000 jobs this year, New Jersey still has a significant hurdle to surpass, Hughes said.

The survey – which was first conducted in 2007, one year prior to the economic meltdown – is “designed to get an assessment” of the state’s economy from business leaders, Hughes said.

“Despite progress, we still have to climb out of a fairly significant employment loss,” Hughes said, referring to the national unemployment rate.

But the overall attitude and picture is a sign of increased optimism, according to business industry advocates.

“This year’s C-Suite survey offers strong evidence that businesses are pleased with the positive direction in which the state’s economy and business climate are headed,” said Philip Kirschner, president of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, in a statement.

“This represents a dramatic improvement from the findings of the fall 2009 C-Suite survey, when just 31 percent of CEOs said the state was helpful in its attitude toward business,” he said.

In encouraging news, 35 percent of respondents indicated in the survey they expect to increase their company’s capital spending in the state this year and 42 percent said they expect to add to their local employment base.

Despite the positive news, the survey’s results also indicate New Jersey, and the larger national economy, is still viewed as having several hurdles to overcome:

— Eighty-five percent of respondents say that New Jersey taxes are worse than most other states.

— Seventy-eight percent of respondents believe the national debt poses a major threat to the country’s well being, opposed to 22 percent that said the debt is a minor threat.

— Ninety-eight percent say they feel the debt crisis in Greece and other European countries poses a threat to the U.S. and 80 percent said the crisis posed a threat to their own business.

C-Suite survey shows continued optimism in New Jersey economy