The country's construction sector ended 2015 on a positive note, with activity in December surging to a five month high.

The latest Ulster Bank Construction Purchasing Managers Index - a seasonally adjusted index designed to track changes in total construction activity - rose to 58.6 in December from 55.5 in November. 

The index has now increased in each of the past 28 months, with the latest expansion the strongest since July. 

Ulster Bank noted that activity in December was driven by a growth in new orders which points to healthy activity levels in the coming months.

The rate of job creation also picked up in December for the second month in a row and was the fastest since June.

Each of the three monitored sectors - housing, commercial and civil engineering - saw higher activity in December. 

The faster expansions in activity were recorded on both housing and commercial projects. But civil engineering activity continued to increase at a much slower pace than the other sectors and the rate of growth eased to a three-month low.

"Overall, the December survey results indicate that Irish construction firms are reporting solid momentum as a second full year of recovery drew to a close," commented Ulster Bank's chief economist Simon Barry. 

"The bew orders index continues to show vibrant expansion, with increasing enquiries for new business pointing to a healthy near-term pipeline of activity. Firms certainly remain optimistic about prospects for the year ahead, with sentiment remaining close to record levels despite easing slightly from November," he added.