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South Jersey business optimism ticks up after hitting record lows

South Jersey business leaders are feeling more optimistic about the future of the local economy than they did when pandemic shutdowns began. But challenges remain and they're still dealing with a decline in overall business activity.

The Federal Reserve of Philadelphia’s quarterly South Jersey Business Survey for the second quarter reported 43.6% of its respondents, members of the Chamber of Commerce of Southern New Jersey, expect business activity in the region to increase in the next six months.

That’s up from just 3.2% who said the same during the first quarter, when the Covid-19 crisis first started to impact the local and national economy. The first-quarter report showed overall company activity and sales hit their lowest level in the 29 years the Fed has conducted the survey. At the time, an overwhelming 73% of respondents said that overall business activity in the region had decreased. About 18% said it had stayed the same and 7% thought it was higher. When it came to their own businesses, 61% said activity was down, 28% said it was the same and 10.6% reported an increase.

Those figures improved in the second quarter, when 61.5% said the region’s activity had dropped, and 23% said it had increased. For their own businesses, about 41% said activity was down, and 36% said it was higher.

“The survey’s indicators of overall company activity and sales moved away from the historical low readings in the first quarter but remained negative in the second quarter,” it stated.

The biggest improvement has been in companies’ expectations for the next six months, which were dismal in the first quarter, as 79% predicted its sales would decrease and 51% said it would reduce its total number of employees.

In Q2, however, only 26% thought sales would drop in the future, and the same percentage expected them to stay the same. About 44% predicted an increase.

Most also expect job losses to level off in the coming months. About 15% surveyed thought their staff would decrease, 56% said it would stay the same and 23% expect it to increase.

One of the biggest struggles South Jersey has faced amid Covid-19 shutdowns is the fact hospitality and tourism make up a large part of its economy, especially in shore towns during the spring and summer months. As the state’s slowly reopened, crowds have returned to the area’s beaches and boardwalks, but business owners are also bracing for the future as the number of cases elsewhere in the country continues to rise.

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For all CCSNJ media inquiries, please contact:

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