ACTIVITY in the services sector hit its highest level since 2007 in December, new figures show.
The latest services Purchasing Managers' Index has now shown expansion in each of the past 17 months.
The services sector ranges from banks and hotels to restaurants and bars and accounts for about 70pc of economic output.
According to the Investec figures, the PMI rose to 61.8 in December up from 57.1 the previous month - any figure above 50 indicates growth.
The December PMI showed strong growth in employment and new export orders, mainly from the UK.
Investec's chief economist Philip O'Sullivan the figures were reason to be cheerful.
"The pace of growth in new business quickened for a third successive month during December, with respondents citing strengthening economic conditions and improved client confidence, " he said.
"Unadjusted data for the subsectors covered by the survey - Business Services, Financial Services, Technology, Media and Telecoms and Travel & Leisure - show that for a fifth successive month all segments reported growth in new business. Fuelled by this improved demand, backlogs of work are growing at the fastest pace since March 2007," he added.