The Irish manufacturing sector experienced its sharpest decline since September 2011 in April, as output and new orders each declined for the second month in a row amid signs of deteriorating economic conditions.
The NCB Manufacturing purchasing managers index fell to 48 last month, down from the reading of 48.6 in March.
A figure under 50 signals contraction in the sector, while a figure over 50 signals growth.
Companies surveyed cited weakening market demand on the back of deteriorating economic conditions in both Ireland and across Europe for the weaker reading.
Falling workloads led firms to reduce employment levels and purchasing activity. However, input cost inflationary pressures eased to the weakest level in nine months.
NCB said that output saw its fastest rate of decline since August 2009, while sluggish new orders were at a 15 month low. New export orders remained in negative territory for a second month in a row, while stocks of purchases were at a three month low.
Chief economist Philip O'Sullivan said the readings suggest that a near term recovery in output is unlikely.
In April, input prices saw their ninth monthly increase in a row while output prices fell for the fourth time in six months. NCB described this as a further ''headwind'' for manufacturing firms, although it noted that the recent fall in commodity prices raises the prospect of these pressures abating in the short term.
Today's survey also reveals that the rate of job cuts was the fastest in 19 months as staff who left companies were not replaced due to falling workloads.
''When the previous PMI reading for March revealed an end to an impressive 12 month sequence of growth for the manufacturing sector, we described it as a 'disappointing release,' adding that we would be monitoring 'to see if any of these trends have persisted into Q2, paying particular attention to see if the elevated macroeconomic uncertainty weighs on survey findings,'' the economist said.
''On the evidence of today's report, Q2 has gotten off to an uninspiring start for the Irish manufacturing sector,'' he added.