A survey of businesses shows the outlook for New Jersey's economy is positive for the first time in eight years.

Almost half of the companies polled by the New Jersey Business and Industry Association anticipate higher sales next year. Phil Kirschner, the association's president, says about 20 percent of the businesses questioned expect to hire additional workers.

"I think you are seeing the recovery picking up steam and businesses are gaining more confidence," he said Tuesday. "I also think businesses like the direction that the state is heading. The business climate is improving."

Companies identify their biggest concerns as the cost of health insurance and property taxes, but the state has made improvements on a variety of issues important to business, Kirschner said.

"The majority of companies now say New Jersey is the same as or better than other states in its attitude toward business, attracting new business, controlling government spending, the timely issuance of permits, promoting economic development and controlling energy costs," he said.

The survey was conducted about a month before Hurricane Sandy. Kirschner does not expect the storm will have a long-term effect the majority of the state's businesses.