Ireland's construction sector continued to grow at the end of the year, according to the latest Purchasing Managers’ Index from Ulster Bank.

The bank's PMI for December stood at 58.9, which is down slightly on the November figure but well above the 50 mark that separates growth from contraction.

The report said the sector ended 2016 on a positive note, with activity continuing to rise sharply amid a faster expansion of new orders.

It added rates of job creation and growth of purchasing activity remain substantial and firms are strongly optimistic that activity will increase further in 2017.

Housing and commercial activity were both above the 60 mark in the month, though civil engineering work continued to contract.

The December figure marks the 40th consecutive month of growing construction activity, according to Ulster Bank.

Chief Economist for the Republic of Ireland at Ulster Bank Simon Barry said the PMI results “round off another strong year of recovery for Irish construction firms, with the PMI consistently pointing to ongoing healthy expansion throughout 2016.

“Moreover, momentum behind the sector’s recovery continues to look encouragingly solid, with a marked pick-up in New Orders in December indicating that activity trends look set to remain positive in early 2017.

“Furthermore, firms themselves remain strongly optimistic about the coming year with almost two thirds of respondents expecting further growth in activity in the coming 12 months,” he added.