As 2018 draws to a close many businesses are nervously eyeing a potential wage increase to $15 per hour, and the potential legalization of adult-use marijuana, according to the New Jersey Business and Industry Association’s 60th Business Outlook Survey.
The report, which gauges the attitudes of businesses in New Jersey on what they expect in the year ahead, said 66 percent of its members believed they would be negatively impacted by a wage increase to $15 an hour.
To offset the price increases, 32 percent of businesses said they would raise prices, 26 percent said they would reduce staff, 24 percent said they would reduce hours and 13 percent said they would increase automation.
As for marijuana, the survey found that 77 percent of businesses said they had concerns about the legalization of marijuana.
Fifty-six percent of respondents said they were worried about safety in the workplace while 48 percent had concerns about productivity, 26 percent were worried about chronic absenteeism, and 10 percent were worried about their businesses being close to dispensaries.
“We wanted to make sure that employers can maintain a zero-tolerance workplace relative to testing, and when tests come back positive they can take disciplinary action,” said Michele Siekerka, president and CEO of the NJBIA.
To that end, the NJBIA has been seeking an amendment in the marijuana legalization bill that would give employers more leeway in taking disciplinary action against employees who test positive for marijuana.
“Let’s think about all those people in really sensitive workplaces: manufacturing, utility workers up on poles, people driving school buses with children,” Siekerka added.
Among some of the other negative attitudes of business owners, 50 percent of employers said they will not expand their operations next year. Eighty-eight percent of employers said New Jersey’s taxes are the worst in the nation while 17 percent of employers said they felt the state was making progress with easing regulations, compared to 24 percent of employers in 2017.
But pushing ahead, many employers did show optimism for the coming year. Fifty percent of employers said their profits increased over the past year and 59 percent project increases for the coming year.
Thirty-nine percent of employers said they could hire next year, 76 percent of employers said they granted a pay raise over the past year and 77 percent said they will provide pay increases in 2019. Fifty-five percent of businesses said sales went up in 2018 and 62 percent expect sales to further increase in 2019.