Even though the national current unemployment rate is hovering around 7%, New Jersey business owners are optimistic about their hiring plans for 2014, with nearly 60% saying they plan to hire additional full- or part-time employees next year, according to a recent survey by Provident Bank, http://www.providentnj.com, the oldest community bank operating exclusively in New Jersey for nearly 175 years. Further, Provident Bank's 2013 Business Barometer, which surveyed more than 300 business owners and members of executive management of New Jersey-based businesses, revealed that 78% are either very or somewhat optimistic about their business outlook for 2014. “While the recovery has been slow and Superstorm Sandy was a decidedly defining setback for businesses here in New Jersey, our research underscores a compelling outlook among New Jersey’s business leaders here that better days lay ahead,” said Provident Bank President and CEO Chris Martin. The 2013 Business Barometer revealed, however that this sense of optimism is somewhat tempered by a good dose of reality and the lessons learned over the last half a decade. The vast majority of business owners did not borrow money for their businesses in 2013, with 79% saying so. Another 68% said they do not plan to borrow in 2014 either, citing the economy and consumer confidence as among their two top business concerns. Other important business concerns that respondents cited were the country’s political climate, New Jersey’s property taxes and the state’s own political climate. “These have been challenging years for New Jersey businesses, and the political and economic uncertainty have understandably impacted business owners’ willingness to overextend themselves and take on additional debt. But, all things considered, the survey revealed just how resilient business owners are here, how eager they are ready to embrace the next business cycle and are poised for growth,” noted Martin.