Rising workloads in the construction sector encouraged companies to take on more staff in November, according to the latest measure of building activity. 

The Ulster Bank Construction Purchasing Managers' Index, which tracks changes in total construction activity, posted a reading of 59.8 in November. This was down from the seven-month high of 62.3 in October.

But the index remained well above the 50 no-change mark. 

The November index recorded the sharpest rise in employment since February, which was supported by a sharp increase in new orders.

Ulster Bank noted the "very encouraging" further acceleration in residential activity which took the Housing PMI to its highest level since February.

"This is further welcome evidence of sustained, solid expansion in an area where strong performance is badly needed given the housing supply shortfall," commented Ulster Bank's chief economist Simon Barry.  

Mr Barry noted that commercial activity also continued to expand at a rapid rate, albeit that the pace of growth eased from October.  

But civil engineering continued to underperform with activity decreasing in November, having been unchanged the previous month. 

Today's index also showed that business sentiment remained strongly positive, despite easing from that seen in the previous month. 

Optimism was recorded at 56% of firms, with signs of improving market conditions and expectations of new order growth supporting positive sentiment.

112,000 jobs needed to deliver planned construction targets