The construction industry continued to expand in March, according to the latest Purchasing Managers Index from Ulster Bank.

However that growth was at a slower pace than in previous months, partially due to the disruption stemming from Storm Emma. 

The index, which is seasonally adjusted and is designed to track changes in total construction activity, dropped to 57.5 in March from 59.2 in February.

Ulster Bank said that further strong rises were seen in activity on both housing and commercial projects, although in each case the rate of growth eased. 

The only sub-sector to see a sharper increase in activity was civil engineering, but it still posted the weakest rise overall.

Disruption caused by heavy snowfall at the start of the month contributed to slower expansions in activity, new orders and purchasing activity, but growth rates remained marked nonetheless. 

The rate of job creation picked up and business sentiment remained elevated, Ulster Bank added.

Simon Barry, chief economist at Ulster Bank, said that despite having to contend with adverse weather during the early part of the month in particular, construction activity continued to expand at a very brisk pace in March.

The economist said that a number of the survey's main metrics - including the headline activity and new orders indices - did register some slippage last month reflecting weather-related difficulties.

Snow disruption also proved problematic for supplier deliveries which were reported as being subject to longer lead times, he added.  

"We would not have been surprised to have seen a larger weather impact, particularly given the sizeable impact on factory output reported in the March Manufacturing PMI survey.

"So we take the March survey results as further evidence of a construction sector which continues to register very strong underlying growth performance," Mr Barry said.

Ulster Bank also noted that confidence levels among Irish construction firms clearly remain very buoyant as sentiment was little changed from February at levels that are amongst the highest on record. 

"Over 63% of firms expect activity to increase in the coming twelve months, underpinned by confidence about the prospects for both the wider Irish economy and the construction sector itself," Simon Barry said.