The country's services sector grew at the fastest rate in seven years in June as firms hired more staff, capping the strongest quarter for the sector since the financial crisis.

The Investec Purchasing Managers' Index of activity in the services sector, which covers businesses from banks to hotels, rose to 62.6 in June from 61.7 in May.

This was above the 50 point line denoting growth and the highest reading since February 2007.
GDP data for the first quarter of the year will be released later today after Ireland's economy surprisingly contracted at the end of last year as consumer spending fell and export growth remained sluggish. 

The services' sector index has remained above 60 for the past three months compared to an average reading of 59.9 in the first quarter.

It follows a survey earlier this week which showed that manufacturing activity grew for the 13th successive month. 

The sub-index for employment among service firms rose to 59.6 from 56.6, the 22nd month of job growth in a row and the second-highest reading since October 2006.
"Given the recovery underway both at home and across Ireland's key trading partners, we believe that this confidence will prove well-founded and expect to see further strong services PMI readings over the coming months at least," said Investec Ireland's economist Philip O'Sullivan.