It is no secret the brutal winter took a toll on the economy, but business is expected to pick up now that the worst of the harsh weather is over, according to a new survey by the National Association for Business Economics.

Unemployment Rate Remains At 7.6 Percent
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Business is expected to pick up again in the coming weeks and months, according to the survey.

"The famous last words of economists are always 'this time it's different' and it usually isn't, but this time it really was different," said Jim Hughes, dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University.  "We really had severe weather and it was disruptive in terms of consumption patterns, in terms of hiring patterns and even scheduling activities. It slowed a lot of things down, made commutes really tough and made it very hard on the construction industry. People may not have eaten out, they may have missed mall trips because of snow. I think businesses will make that up over the next several months."

According to the survey, a majority of companies said sales are growing, but that growth was less widespread than a similar survey three months ago. The number of firms reporting higher profit margins also fell slightly. But retail sales and industrial production were strong in March and employment is improving as well.

"Buffeted by a very rough winter, sales grew at fewer firms during the first quarter; however, survey participants continue to report strong expectations for increased growth over the course of 2014," said NABE President Jack Kleinhenz in a press release Monday on NABE's website.

Kleinhenz said the survey results suggest that growth continues at a majority of respondents' firms.

"The number of firms reporting increasing profit margins fell slightly, with more panelists reporting rising materials and wage costs," he said. "The percentage of survey panelists who expect their firms to add workers or increase overall capital spending increased strongly from that reported in the January survey."

Overall, survey participants expect the economy to grow at least 2 percent, after taking inflation into account, over the next 12 months.

Hughes expects construction will get back on track along with some of the rebuilding along the Jersey Shore.

"There probably was hiring that did not take place because of all the weather-related events that we had in January and February," Hughes said. "So, hiring that would have taken place then will probably take place as we move deeper into the spring."

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