The embattled construction sector continued to shrink in August, with near-stalled house building and severely contracted civil engineering activities weighing on businesses.
The Ulster Bank Construction Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) for last month actually rose slightly to 43.5 from 42.1 in July, but the figure still reflects a stark rate of contraction within the sector. Any reading below 50 signals a contraction.
The civil engineering sector recorded the steepest fall in activity, with the rate of decline remaining substantial despite easing since July. Activity on housing projects decreased in August at a faster pace than in July, but the fall was also the weakest of the three sectors.
The index recorded a reading of just 39.3 for the civil engineering sector in August, compared to 36 in July.
John Fahey, an economist with Ulster Bank, said the latest data clearly showed an industry still in a state of contraction.
"However, the PMI did rise slightly in August, for a second straight month, indicating an easing in the pace of contraction in construction activity. In fact, the latest headline activity index represents its slowest pace of contraction on four months."
Mr Fahey added that at a sectoral level, both commercial and civil engineering activity contracted at a slower pace in August compared to July, and with housing, the rate of contraction accelerated last month.
The live register edged higher in August, with 449,600 people out of work. Business sentiment in the construction sector fell to its lowest level since February.