Services activity contracted faster in November, ahead of the reopening from this week of large parts of the sector, a business survey showed today. 

Ireland became one of first European countries to reimpose tough Covid-19 restrictions in late October when the Government shut non-essential retail and limited pubs and restaurants to takeaway services.

The restrictions will be largely rolled back this week. 

The AIB IHS Markit Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) for services slid to 45.4 from 48.3 in October, the third successive monthly fall but far from the record low of 13.9 in April when the economy was under a much stricter lockdown. 

Today's survey is the latest to suggest nowhere near as much damage was done to the economy this time around compared with the first lockdown. 

Credit and debit card spending fell by just 7% for much of the period, and the PMI manufacturing survey last month posted its third-highest reading since April 2019. 

The survey's authors also said there were encouraging trends within the data. 

"Despite the shutdown, the rate of decline in new business was very modest and eased since October. Indeed, the volume of order backlogs increased for the first time since February," AIB's chief economist Oliver Mangan said. 

"Furthermore, there was a move to near stabilisation in employment levels in November, which have been in decline since February," Oliver Mangan said.