The country's services sector expanded for the 14th month in a row in September, a new survey shows today.

The Investec Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) of services sector activity moderated to 56.8 in September from 61.6 in August.

The easing had been expected as the August figure had been the highest reading since February 2007.

The September reading was still far above the 50 mark that separates growth in activity from contraction, and was the third-highest this year after August and July's figures.

"The underlying trends for the Irish services sector remain broadly positive," said Investec Ireland's chief economist Philip O'Sullivan.

"Our base case for the Irish economy is that growth will accelerate in H2 of this year and into 2014 on the back of a stabilising domestic economy and improving export markets," the economist added.

The services sector, which covers a range of businesses running from banks to hotels, accounts for 70% of gross domestic product here.

The latest survey showed growth in new services business, though the new business sub-index eased back to 57.4 from 59.3 a month earlier, which was the highest since March 2007.

New export orders also rose last month, but at a slower pace than in August. Companies noted that the UK was a source of new order growth.

Service companies increased their staffing levels in response to higher workloads and Investec said that the rate of job creation was sharp and faster than in August. Staffing levels have now risen in each of the past 13 months.

Indications of improved conditions both at home and abroad supported firms' optimism that activity will continue to increase over the coming year. Sentiment was at its highest level since October 2007, the survey noted.

The survey covers all private sector services in Ireland, excluding retail and wholesale, and is based on questionnaires sent to around 450 Irish private-sector service companies.