Most New Jersey businesses intend to pay workers more in 2017

Michele Siekerka

Michele Siekerka

New Jersey businesses are optimistic about the year ahead.

New Jersey Business and Industry Association president Michele Siekerka says 29 percent of member businesses aim to expand their workforce next year, and many employees can look forward to getting a raise.

More than two-thirds “said that they will give wage increases in 2017,” she said Tuesday. “Sixty-one percent said that will range between 1 and 4.9 percent, and actually 8 percent said that they will contemplate raises higher than that.”

Still, businesses remain concerned about the expense of health benefits, property taxes, and the cost of doing business in the state.

And Siekerka said 70 percent believe increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour would hurt their business.

“Thirty-four percent said they may reduce their staff, 28 percent said reduce hours, and 34 percent said raise prices,” she said. “Then, of course, we see automation. We don’t want to rush that. We would still like to have good customer service. We would like to see people at the counters of our retail restaurants and our stores. We don’t want everything to be a PIN-pad.”

Recently enacted tax changes will slow out migration and help keep family-owned businesses and seniors in New Jersey, Siekerka said.

One of her group’s goals for the new year is increasing affordability for millennials.

“The average housing cost in New Jersey is $1,600 a month. I don’t know what kid coming out of college can afford that,” she said. “Insurance is $4,600 a year. Energy costs $4,400 a year. These are very expensive costs for young people.”

Nearly 90 percent of businesses surveyed believe New Jersey taxes and fees are steeper than in other states. And about three-quarters said the state is not controlling government spending.

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