New Zealand business confidence got even gloomier in May as firms, especially retailers, expect slower activity and more are now anticipating earnings to shrink in the coming year.

A net 27 per cent of 354 firms surveyed in the ANZ business outlook survey expect general business conditions to deteriorate in the coming 12 months, compared to a net 23 per cent pessimists in April.

Companies typically get more downbeat about the broader economy under a Labour administration, making expectations for their own activity a better indicator for gross domestic product, and firms are the most pessimistic they've been about their own business since November with a net 14 per cent predicting increased activity, down from 18 per cent in April.

"The survey made for fairly uninspiring reading this month, with all aggregate activity indicators flat to falling," ANZ Bank New Zealand chief economist Sharon Zollner said in a note.


"The economy still has good tailwinds in the form of fiscal stimulus and the record-high terms of trade, but may be tiring nonetheless."

New Zealand's headline economic indicators have supported the idea of robust growth in recent, supported by strong inbound net migration fuelling residential investment in new housing and bolstering consumer spending, and the Organisation for Economic Cooperative and Development still anticipates solid growth.

While firms have been optimistic enough to absorb that expanding workforce, it hasn't spilled over into wage growth as consumer prices remain flat and per capita economic growth has been dubbed anaemic by some commentators, with a lack of infrastructure spending failing to keep up with the larger population.

Today's survey shows companies are more concerned about earnings, with a net 8.5 per cent expecting profits to fall in the coming year, compared to a net 0.9 per cent in April, and just 3.2 per cent intend to increase investment, down from 7.2 per cent. Hiring intentions also declined, with a net 6.9 per cent planning to take on new staff, down from 8.9 per cent in April.

Agriculture was the gloomiest sector at a net 39 per cent predicting a deteriorating national outlook, followed by manufacturing at 28 per cent, whereas retail was the most downbeat about their own activity with a net 3.6 per cent expecting increased activity, followed by agriculture at 3.8 per cent.

A net 26 per cent of firms intend to raise prices, up from 22 per cent in April, with a net 33 per cent of the services sector driving that increase. Still, inflation expectations remained anchored at 2.13 per cent, up from 2.11 per cent.