The BNZ-BusinessNZ index showed a national seasonally adjusted reading of 54.1 points, down from the 59 points recorded in November last year.
Otago-Southland led the regional results with a reading of 61.7 points, up from 60.8 at the same time last year. Northern was 61, central was 55 and Canterbury was 43.3 points, a surprising slump from the 56.7 recorded last year.
BNZ head of research Stephen Toplis expected 2012's theme of slow progress, despite continuing struggles, to continue into 2013.
''New Zealand's economic outlook for calendar 2013 is unspectacular. But against a global backdrop of significant distress, this is not a bad place to be.''
Otago-Southland Employers Association chief executive John Scandrett said the Otago-Southland result, which built positively on the October result, provided a clear signal that regional pre-Christmas activity levels were tracking in a positive fashion.
All the subindices levels had delivered expansionary results. In particular, sales, new business and stock-level elements were in a solid state.
''Again we see a mixed bag of survey comments and, while there is positive feedback across construction, painting/decorating and property services subsectors, selected tourism and wholesale operators are unhappy with the business outcomes they have seen,'' he said.
Nationally, comments from respondents reflected a distinct difference between those who had seen activity expand and those who had not.
In November, 65% of comments were positive, compared with 62% in October and 47% in September.
While the increase was ''obviously good news'', the positive comments received were more specific as to why they were more optimistic, such as better weather conditions, detailed Christmas prospects or certain tourist opportunities, Mr Scandrett said. In contrast, those still struggling were often more general in their comments, a lack of customers and orders being the primary concern.