Employees are getting increasingly gloomy about the prospects of a pay rise, according to data compiled by Westpac and McDermott Miller.

Westpac chief economist Dominick Stephens said the New Zealand labour market was still seen as tight.

The Westpac McDermott Miller Employment Confidence Index fell by 7.1 points to 114.2 in March following a 6.8 point rise in December.

"Perceptions about job opportunities were down slightly in March, but they are still higher than in any prior period since the 2008 Global Financial Crisis," he said.


"However, workers are markedly gloomier about pay increases," he said.

The share of workers reporting a rise in their earnings over the last year fell sharply in March, and expectations of a pay rise in the coming year are at a record low.

There were two starkly different narratives emerging about wage growth, he said.

"Businesses are increasingly concerned about upward pressure on wages in a tight labour market, but workers are less confident that those wage increases will be forthcoming," he said.

"Which of those narratives prevails will be a key issue for the economy over 2019," he said.

The Reserve Bank, in its review of the official cash rate yesterday, said employment was near its maximum sustainable level.