A survey of regional manufacturers this past week showed that Hurricane Sandy’s effects were felt well beyond the casino/tourism economy along the shore.

Two-thirds of factories in the Philadelphia-Atlantic City-Wilmington, Del., region told the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia that they were shut or severely crippled for a day or two. And 85 percent reported lower activity levels.

The Fed’s Business Outlook Survey for November also found 20 percent of firms reporting fewer employees vs. 13 percent with more.

That’s bad news, with area counties already suffering some of the highest jobless rates in the nation and the slow winter season approaching.

But economist and top forecaster Joel Naroff, who has a home in Margate, thinks Sandy’s negative effects, although large, will be short-lived.

Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors in Holland, Pa., said many of the businesses that closed will reopen in the next few months, and reconstruction will put a large number of the unemployed to work in building trades and such.

“It is true that workers in retail and hospitality who lost their jobs are not going to get a lot of the construction positions and they will remain unemployed until their stores are reopened, if they ever are,” Naroff said in commentary/analysis. “But the weakness we see in the Philadelphia and New York regions should dissipate and I would not be surprised if both (Federal Reserve) District Banks report increases in their measures of business activity in December.”

The six-month outlook of manufacturers in the region supports this view.

Nearly twice as many — 43 percent vs. 23 percent — expect business activity to be stronger six months from now.

And 22 percent expect to have hired more employees by then, compared with 18 percent who expect to have cut their payrolls.

Top lenders

The state district office of the U.S. Small Business Administration said this week that JPMorgan Chase Bank had made the most loans to small businesses through its programs in its just concluded fiscal year.

The N.J. Business Finance Corp. had the highest total value of loans made with $83 million.

Of the 1,175 loans made to state small business owners through SBA programs, 142 were made by JPMorgan Chase, with a total value of $16 million.

The bank also led institutions for participation in the 504 Loan Program, which enables businesses to purchase the real property they occupy, with 13 such loans.

The Cooperative Business Assistance Corp. in Camden was credited with approving 60 of the 101 SBA micro-loans in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

Other leading SBA lenders included TD Bank with 119 loans worth a total of $23.5 million; Sovereign Bank with 67 loans, $11.3 million; and Wells Fargo Bank with 54 loans, $18.7 million.

Disaster help

The state SBA district has opened an informational office at the Cape May County Chamber of Commerce to provide one-on-one help to business owners with losses due to Hurricane Sandy.

Appointments with SBA representatives Ron Hobaugh and Anthony Hawk may be made by calling 609-465-7181, the chamber said.

Business people can also stop by the chamber offices at 13 Crest Haven Road, Cape May Court House, at Exit 11 on the Garden State Parkway.

Contact Kevin Post:

609-272-7250