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Canterbury has nudged Auckland from the top spot in the latest ASB-Main Report regional economic score card, as the post-earthquake rebuild continues to gather pace.
Indicators of construction activity pointed to increasing momentum, with the value of building consents (both residential and non-residential) issued over the fourth-quarter the highest on record at $936 million.
By comparison, a strong quarter before the earthquakes would have been as a result of consents totalling between $400 million and $500 million, the report said.
The labour market also seemed to have finished 2013 strongly, with employment up nearly 5% in the fourth quarter alone.
Strong inwards migration appeared to be meeting the demand for workers in the construction sector with labour costs rising fairly modestly.
Otago regained its three-star status - meaning a ''healthy'' rating - after some encouraging data.
Employment had rebounded after a soft patch during 2012 but further employment was needed, with the number of people in work recovering back to where it was at the end of 2011.
Consumer confidence was keeping Otago anchored around the middle of the rankings, with the region ranking last of all regions.
Hopefully that was a one-off as retail spending growing ''quite strongly'' over the quarter and it was now up 4.5% on a year ago, the report said.
Southland remained in last place in the rankings, with a lack of employment opportunities seeming to hold the region back.
However, the outlook for the dairy sector was bright and, with that sector a vital part of the Southland economy, that income should flow through into broader activity over time, it said.