Building sector growing at slower pace
Growth in Ireland's construction sector weakened last month, with new orders slowing sharply compared to the end of 2014.
But the Ulster Bank Construction Purchasing Managers' Index shows that strong employment growth continued and that optimism in the sector is at a near record high.
The index dropped to 57.1 in January from 63.1 in December. Any reading over 50 signifies expansion in the sector and any reading under 50, contraction.
While activity has now increased every month for the past 17 months, the month-on-month fall in January is the largest in more than seven years.
Ulster Bank chief economist Simon Barry said that while the softening of growth in January is striking, it needs to be seen in the context of exceptionally strong growth rates in 2014.
"Moreover, sentiment ticked up from December levels and was the second-highest in the series history behind the record reached last November, suggesting that firms retain a very positive view of the year-ahead outlook despite an apparent easing in the pace of activity in January," he said.
By far the strongest monthly rise in activity was recorded on commercial projects.
A marked slowdown in the rate of growth in housing activity was recorded, with the latest rise the weakest since August 2013.
Civil engineering activity rose for the fourth month in a row during January, with the rate of growth broadly similar to that seen for housing activity.
The rate of growth in new orders also slowed sharply at the start of 2015, but remained solid.
Where an increase in new orders was recorded, panelists mentioned improvements in the availability of work.
The rate of job creation remained strong and was only slightly weaker than what was recorded by Ulster Bank in December.