Manufacturing activity grew at the fastest rate in over three years in April, with businesses increasing staffing levels in response to rising output and new orders, a survey showed today. 

The Investec Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index nudged up to 56.1 in April from 55.5 in March, the strongest level since February 2011. 

The index has now been above the 50 line dividing growth in activity from contractions for the 11th month in a row. 

New orders hit their highest rate in three years at 57.6, up from 56.9 in the previous month, with some respondents referring to higher new orders from UK, Investec noted. 

"Given manufacturers' continued willingness to increase payrolls and expectant purchasing behaviour, it is clear that the sector expects the recent strength in business activity to be sustained over the months ahead," Investec Ireland's chief economist Philip O'Sullivan said. 

Manufacturing accounts for about a quarter of Irish gross domestic product, according to World Bank figures.