The pace of growth in construction activity fell back in July to its lowest level since the start of the year, according to the latest Ulster Bank Purchasing Managers’ Index.

The PMI stood at 56.6 last month – well above the 50 mark that separates growth from contraction but down from 58.2 in June.

Activity in the housing and commercial construction sectors slipped during the month but remained in growth, though civil engineering work continued to contract.

Despite this the PMI has recorded growth in the overall construction sector for 47 consecutive months, with Ulster Bank’s chief economist Simon Barry describing its performance as "very solid".

Growth in new orders also picked up pace in July while employment continued to increase, pointing to a healthy pipeline of work for building firms.

Mr Barry also noted that average readings from the index are now close to the boom-time levels seen between 2003 and 2007.