NEW JERSEY BANKS EXPECT STABLE EMPLOYMENT IN SECTOR, SLOW GROWTH FOR ECONOMY
By Ed Beeson/Star-Ledger
January 10, 2012
The New Jersey banking sector this year looks to be a lot more stable than its investment banking counterpart across the Hudson River.
According to a new survey by the New Jersey Bankers Association, 52 banks in the state say they do not expect to lay off any employees this year, but instead keep staffing levels stable.
A near equal number of banks expect to either reduce staff or hire more, the survey found. Six banks said they plan shrink headcount, while seven said they intend to hire, said Mike Affuso, senior vice president and director of government relations for the trade group, who coordinated the survey.
By comparison, most of New York’s investment banking giants, including Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, have announced plans to shed thousands of jobs as profits for the sector have taken a nosedive.
The New Jersey bankers survey, conducted in early December, took the responses of chief executives and other senior management at 65 members of the trade group, Affuso said. He did not review the raw data to determine individual banks’ staffing plans.
The poll found that bankers are more positive about the future of New Jersey’s economy than they are about the future of the U.S. While bankers no longer fear a double-dip recession, the survey found that just 14 bankers rated New Jersey’s outlook as between poor and fair, whereas 28 gave the U.S. the same grade, Affuso said.
“Now we’re leading the nation instead of the nation leading us,” he said.
Yet bankers see few bright spots in the lending sector, the survey found. They expect the economy to continue to grow slowly, and commercial and residential lending to be depressed due to a lack of both demand and qualified borrowers. Interest rates also are expected to stay very low for at least the first half of the year, a drag on bank profits, Affuso said.
The refinance market is one area of positive growth, the poll found. Three-quarters of bankers said they are seeing robust demand in the area as borrowers look to take advantage of historic low rates.