The Irish construction sector remained firmly in contraction in December, although there were signs the decline eased as activity, new orders and employment all fell at weaker rates.
However, purchasing activity and the use of sub-contractors both decreased sharply.
The Ulster Bank Construction Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) – a seasonally adjusted index designed to track changes in total construction activity – posted 43.0 in December, up from 42.6 in the previous month.
The reading showed a further steep reduction in activity, although the rate of decline has eased slightly from its weakest level in May 2012.
On a positive note, improved sentiment was recorded, with panelists expecting improved economic conditions and a stabilisation in the market over the coming year.
Simon Barry, chief economist for the Republic of Ireland at Ulster Bank, said the December reading of the PMI pointed to ongoing and broad-based declines in construction, as activity continued to slide across the three main sub-sectors – residential, commercial and civil engineering.
"Looking back over 2012, it is clear that the construction industry continued to face an extremely challenging environment, with last year marking the sixth year in a row of contraction.
"One disappointing aspect of the sector's performance in 2012 was that the hoped-for stabilisation failed to materialise, and the industry continues to be dogged by recessionary conditions," he added.