Manufacturing growth picked up pace and confidence among firms rose sharply in November after the sector was spared during the reintroduction of tough Covid-19 restrictions, a survey showed today. 

The AIB IHS Markit manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) rose to 52.2, the third-highest reading since April 2019. 

That was up from 50.3 in October, when the index crept above the 50 level that separates expansion from contraction. 

The PMI hit a 10-year low of 36 during April's lockdown of the economy, when large parts of the manufacturing sector were shut. 

Output and new orders from at home and abroad returned to marginal growth last month.

While the survey's authors said the imminent end to the Brexit transition period resulted in some stockpiling and pressure on supply chains, it failed to impact on confidence. 

The sub-index measuring future output trends rose to 66.8 from 57.1, the highest level since January. Ireland reported its first Covid-19 case on February 29. 

Data has shown that the continuation of manufacturing and construction - together with many stores offering collection services while closed - has done far less damage to the economy than during the wider lockdown in the spring. 

Credit and debit card spending, including ATM withdrawals, was down 7% year-on-year for most of the recent period of tough restrictions.

This compared to a 27% year-on-year fall in April, Central Bank data showed earlier this week. 

The restrictions on non-essential retailers and most of the hospitality sector will be lifted this week. 

"The November PMI data show that, as in other countries, the sector is coping well with the second lockdown and is increasingly confident about prospects for 2021," AIB's chief economist Oliver Mangan said.