Activity in the country's services sector expanded again in April, a survey showed today, but weakness in new export orders and employment helped nudge the rate of growth to a 14-month low. 

The Investec Purchasing Managers' Index of activity in services, which covers businesses from banks to hotels, slipped to 60.6 from 60.9 in March.

It had reached an eight-year high of 62.6 in December last year. 

The survey found the pace of growth in employment fell to an 11-month low. 

The pace of growth of new export orders was its lowest in 24 months at 56.5.

"It seems that the overall narrative is one of continued growth, albeit at a slightly slower pace, at the start of Q2," Investec Ireland's chief economist Philip O'Sullivan said. 

The index has stayed above 60 for a year and has not fallen below the 50-point line that separates growth from contraction since July 2012.
The Irish economy is forecast to be the fastest growing in the European Union for a second year in a row this year. A strong first quarter saw unemployment fall to 10% from a high of over 15% in early 2012.