Optimism grows despite sharp fall
construction activity continued to fall sharply in January, although at the slowest pace in five months.
The Ulster Bank Construction Purchasing Managers' Index -- designed to measure the overall performance of the construction economy -- rose to 36.1 in January, from 33.1 in December, its highest level since last August.
However, the reading still represented a substantial fall in activity during the month, as anything under 50 represents contraction.
Activity has decreased in each month since June 2007 and wider economic conditions remain fragile, the survey's authors say.
"Both activity and new business fell sharply, despite the respective rates of contraction easing, while jobs were again cut at a considerable pace," the report says.
Commenting on the survey, Simon Barry, chief economist at Ulster Bank, said: "At 36.1, the headline index continues to point to pronounced weakness in activity levels, but it did rise to its highest level since last August.
"There was no indication of any improvement in employment dynamics; the jobs index of the survey fell marginally and is still very much consistent with a sector that is shedding labour."
He said some of the forward-looking elements of the survey showed a bit more promise, and building firms are looking for fresh opportunities.
"Irish construction firms are seeking growth opportunities in markets abroad.
"The January survey picked up a clear improvement in optimism as respondents expressed an expectation that the wider economy will improve over the coming year," Mr Barry said.