The pace of construction activity rose in September, the latest Purchasing Managers' Index from Ulster Bank shows, although it remains uneven across the industry. 

The Construction Purchasing Managers' Index - a seasonally adjusted index designed to track changes in total construction activity - rose slightly to 56.5 in September from August's 29-month low of 55.1. 

Activity in the building industry has now increased in each of the past 49 months, with a sharp expansion signalled at the end of the third quarter.

Today's index showed that housing activity continued to grow during the month, though at a slower rate than was seen in August, while the pace of activity in the commercial sector rose considerably.

But civil engineering work continued to contract, though at a slower pace than before, while the pace of new orders and employment growth also eased last month.

Ulster Bank noted that employment levels in the building industry rose at the weakest pace for a year. 

But it added that staffing levels continued to increase at a marked pace, with construction companies linking hiring to rising activity requirements.

Ulster Bank's chief economist Simon Barry said that construction firms remain upbeat about activity prospects, with almost 55% of respondents anticipating further activity growth in the coming year.

"Positive sentiment reflected general expectations that demand for construction work would continue to improve, with the housing sector in particular cited as a source of strength," the economist said. 

Today's index also showed that inflationary pressures picked up with regards to the purchasing of inputs, with companies mentioning higher costs for items such as metals. 

The price of cable was also reportedly higher, as a result of recent changes in regulations.