The rate of growth in construction activity slowed during June but only after a near record performance by the sector in the previous month.

The latest purchasing managers index from Ulster Bank, a monthly survey monitoring activity and sentiment in the sector, showed a 46th month of growth in a row in June.

Ulster Bank's construction PMI dropped to 58.2 in June from 63.6 in May.

The index monitors the three sectors of the indsutry - housing, commercial and civil engineering.

Today's index shows that the commercial category was the strongest performer last month, with the pace of growth of housing activity moderating in June from near-record levels in May. 

But civil engineering activity decreased modestly in June, ending a two-month sequence of growth.

Just over a quarter of the survey panellists reported hiring additional staff during the month.

"The ongoing improvement in conditions in both the construction industry itself and the wider economy continue to underpin business confidence among respondents, with sentiment picking up to the strongest level since last August," commented Ulster Bank's chief economist Simon Barry.

"Over 60% of firms expect activity to increase over the coming year, which taken together with further sharp increases in new orders, suggests that near-term prospects for the sector remain very favourable following a very strong first half of 2017," the economist added.