Auckland has retained the top spot on a regional scoreboard measuring economic activity for the fourth quarter.

The ASB/Main Report Regional Economic Scoreboard lists New Zealand's largest region by population as the country's most confident during the last quarter, driven by an increase in house prices and improved employment.

Car sales and retail sales were up on year-ago levels, however non-residential construction outlook was an area of weakness for the region, the report says.

Otago also reported strong growth, helped by a strong labour market, a lift in guest nights and an improved outlook for the construction sector.

The recovery in employment outpaced that of other regions, the report says.

"House prices lifted over the quarter. Housing turnover is low, but hasn't dropped as much as the nationwide slump."

Elsewhere many regions continue to need an energy injection, but were slowly grinding out of recession, the report says.

Northland was the lowest ranked region during the quarter.

The housing market was weak, the recovery in new car sales trailed the national recovery and retail trade was down on year-ago levels, the report says.

- NZ HERALD ONLINE