Debate over the current economic slowdown is settling at the more gloomy end, with one of New Zealand's more upbeat economic teams downgrading its short-term outlook.

"The domestic economy has clearly slowed further than anticipated," says Westpac chief economist Dominick Stephens in his latest report. "We now expect that the RBNZ will cut the OCR in both August and November."

In fact, there was now some risk the RBNZ might have to deliver the cuts more rapidly, in August and September, depending on how weak the labour market gets, he said.

While they had been anticipating the current slowdown, Stephens and the Westpac team have been at the more optimistic end of the spectrum for several months.

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Westpac economist Dominick Stephens. / Economy Hub screenshot. New Zealand Herald Photograph
Westpac economist Dominick Stephens. / Economy Hub screenshot. New Zealand Herald Photograph

They had expected that the economy would be picking up by mid-2019, on the back of fiscal stimulus and lower interest rates.

"Instead, recent data suggests that New Zealand economic growth has remained slow, " Stephens said.

Low business confidence was translating into slower hiring, and the forestry downturn
could cause job losses, Stephens said.

He noted confidence at 10-year low in the June Quarterly Survey of Business Opinion.

"Firms remain caught between rising costs – often government-imposed, such as the minimum wage hike –and an inability to pass through price increases for their
products," he said "This is squeezing profits. Expected profitability in the survey dropped to its lowest since the GFC."

In addition to survey data, there was other "harder" evidence that low business confidence is affecting the labour market, he said.

"The official government series of job ads flat-lined from November last year, and has actually fallen in the past couple of months