Activity in the services sector decreased for the second month in a row in June as new business only recorded marginal growth.

However, the rate of decline was small and weaker than that recorded in May.

The NCB Services purchasing managers index stood at 49.7 in June, compared to a reading of 48.9 in May.

Any figure under 50 signals growth in an area, while a figure under 50 signals contraction.

The index covers the business services; financial services; technology, media and telecoms and the transport, travel, tourism and leisure sectors.

The level of confidence among companies in the services sector also dipped last month, although companies said they remained optimistic that activity would be higher in a year's time than current levels.

NCB said that staffing levels also fell in June, due to company restructuring and cost reduction efforts by firms.

The survey showed that after falling in May, new business at service providers rose marginally in June. Overall new business has now risen in four of the past five months due to increased market activity. Higher new orders from the UK and Middle East contributed to a solid rise in new business from abroad.

NCB noted that input costs rose again last month, but in contrast services providers cut their output prices in June as competitive pressures remained strong and as firms tried to stimulate demand. Output prices have now fallen every month for the past 47 months.

NCB's chief economist Brian Devine said that two of the four sectors covered by the survey posted falling job numbers in June - financial services and transport and leisure. He added that technology and telecoms continued to be the leading light with employment expanding every month so far this year.