Growth in the Irish construction sector weakened last month, with activity and new orders slowing sharply from the end of 2014. 

However strong growth in employment continued and optimism within the sector improved to a near-record high, according to the Ulster Bank Purchasing Managers' Index for the sector.

The index stood at 57.1 during January, according to the report, with any figure above 50 indicating growth.

However this was much lower than the figure recorded in December 2014, when the index stood at 63.1.

This signalled a “notable growth in momentum”, according to Simon Barry, Ulster Bank’s chief economist for Ireland, though he said it should be looked at in the context of exceptional growth in 2014.
 
The PMI has now been in growth for 17 months, with commercial activity remaining particularly strong.

Despite the slowing in growth during January, Ulster Bank’s report shows that employment growth remained relative strong in the month. 

Prices, meanwhile, have remained largely static, as the benefits of falling oil prices were largely offset by exchange rate changes.