Activity in the construction sector rose at its fastest pace in 15 months in the month of May, according to the latest figures from Ulster Bank.

The bank's construction purchasing managers' index rose to 63.6 in May from 61.3 in April - the 45th consecutive month of expansion.

Today's index showed that bigger workloads encouraged companies to take on more staff, boosting the employment index.

Meanwhile, the new orders index - which is a good indicator of future activity - soared to a 15 month high in May.

The index monitors three monitored segments of the industry - housing, commercial and civil engineering.

Housing saw a marked acceleration in activity, surging to its highest level in over a year and recording the second-fastest rate of expansion in the survey's 17 year history. 

Commercial activity also increased substantially last month, with the latest rise the fastest since July 2016. 

Civil engineering activity expanded for the second month running and while the rate of growth picked up from the previous month, it but remained modest.

Simon Barry, the chief economist at Ulster Bank, said that the survey showed another sharp increase in Irish construction activity, with the pace of expansion accelerating for the fourth month running. 

Survey respondents remained strongly optimistic about the year ahead with companies predicting that further rises in new orders should sustain favourable dynamics in construction activity over the near-term.

"Survey respondents remained strongly optimistic about the year ahead with companies predicting that further rises in new orders should sustain favourable dynamics in construction activity over the near-term," Mr Barry added.